Youth: there’s an edgy, exciting energy about it that’s undeniable. There are also tendencies towards wearying excess, growing pains and acne; of puppy love becoming dog-eared. Los Campesinos!’ two 2008 releases, Hold On Now, Youngster and We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed openly played up their zealous juvenility, while simultaneously alluding to its impermanence.
It should surprise nobody then that the band’s new EP charts the same sonic arc. All’s Well That Ends is the sound of idealistic hope recalibrated, of hearts momentarily stunned but not dropped to the mat. Four songs from this year’s more muted Romance Is Boring are reworked, including the stunning “Letters from Me to Charlotte,” featuring Kim Campesinos in a refreshingly rare turn on lead vocals. Harriet Campesinos’ violin work compliments Gareth’s sing/speak, giving nervous urgency to “In Medias Res” over plodding piano and softly fretted bass.
It’s tempting to dwell on the band’s recent loss of founding member and drummer Ollie Campesinos as having catalyzed the directional shift; to regard All’s Well That Ends as nothing but a stopgap, a pause in the pursuit of more jangly, exuberant expressions, but that unfairly pegs them as reactionary. Without the need to cram every cranny with bells, whistles and xylophones, All’s Well demonstrates how well the originals stand on their own merits.
The choice of covers is telling. Absent are early rave-ups like “You! Me! Dancing!” and “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives,” ignored here in favor of more recent, contemplative material, better suited for the acoustic treatment, and for perpetuating the band’s developing world-view. All’s Well That Ends is swift but hardly slight. Los Campesinos are growing up, jettisoning some of the beardless pomp without losing any of the meaningful circumstance. When reinterpretations are this exceptional, their future recordings can only be encouragingly, equally so.
Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring
Superchunk – Hello Hawk EP
Yo La Tengo – Fakebook