Anyone expecting a sophomore slump or a drop-off in quality due to the nature of its somewhat sudden appearance (who makes two albums a year anymore?) will find themselves sorely disappointed by Los Campesinos! second album, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. Or maybe that should read happily surprised since the group delivers another exciting record with enough feverish energy to power a mid-size metropolitan area for a week. This is an entirely different kind of album, though, much of the joy and fun the band dished out previously like free samples at a supermarket has been drained away and replaced with anger, unease, and miserabilia. As such We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed isn't the immediate jolt to the nervous system that the debut was; the production (done by John Goodmanson in Seattle) is a little flatter, there aren't any instant jams like "Death to Los Campesinos," "You Me Dancing," or "My Year in Lists" here, and there is less give and take sass between vocalists Alex and Gareth. In fact, there is less of Alex overall, as We Are is really Gareth's album both vocally and lyrically. His voice has always been a nasal, slightly unhinged instrument but here he threatens to go off the rails as he sings of sexual frustration, bitter breakups, vomit, violence, and overall queasiness and desperation. One of the key lines he spits out during the title track "We kid ourselves that there's future in the fucking/But there is no fucking future" makes clear that he, and the band by extension, is more desperate, more intense, and not just a little bleak this time out. The album is the sound of a twisted, troubled soul exposed completely and without the electric performances of the band (guitarists Neil and Tom are especially good throughout) and the level of commitment the vocalists exhibit; it could have sunk into an insular sulk that would have made it a slog to get through. It's far from that; it's more of a ripping, invigorating howl than a self-pitying whimper. Songs like "Miserabilia" and "The End of the Asterisk" were made for pounding the steering wheel as you drive home from a lousy day at work, "Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1" and "You'll Need All Those Fingers for Crossing" are made for long train rides home after breakups. While some fans of the band's earlier, less gritty and seemingly less serious songs may be initially put off by the emotion and desperation on display, they need to give the record a chance to take hold. Once it does, it grabs you by the throat and the heart, and doesn't let go. Hold on Now, Youngster is still the more magical of the two records, it's the one to play when you want to feel joy, but We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed has more depth and feeling. It's proof that Los Campesinos! are more than just cuddly indie pop cuties, they mean real grown-up business.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
Track Listing - Disc 1