Sick Scenes, the sixth album from Los Campesinos!, may be more appropriately titled than the band intended. This record is a stylistic hodgepodge that runs the hipster gamut from mid-career AFI to MGMT.
Laying tight-lipped, smugly academic literary devices over offensively loaded imagery in order to communicate an obsessive preoccupation with mental illness, pharmaceuticals, and soccer, what would otherwise be clever verses are often plagued by obscure references and overdone puns.
And it’s difficult to tell whether this is dramatic posturing, or the poetry of a self-obsessed and/or emotionally unstable pedant with a penchant for prescription pills and no desire to be healed.
Los Campesinos! fail to make a coherent statement with their music. Although the vocals are fairly consistent, there is something to be said for the lyricism of Sick Scenes. It occasionally elevates itself beyond the standard curriculum of upper-class undergrad English courses.
At times socially conscious — and at times curiously obsessed with soccer — the unusual tenor of these verses on paper are generally more interesting than the music to which they have been assigned.
As with many recent releases, Sick Scenes parses out the process of aging and mortality from the perspective of a millennial generation that spent its money on experience rather than materialism — a generation that’s starting to feel the impact of reckless consumerism and economic compromise. Really, it’s a completely reasonable existential crisis. But it’s just so damn whiny.
In grappling with getting older, Los Campesinos! swing hysterically at the impending future while backing blindly into the past. At some point, sounding like an angsty teenager loses its charm. And this album’s over-enunciated emotionalism crosses the line into melodramatic falsehood.
No amount of stylistic variation (or innovation) can save this release from itself. And that self seems to be a thirty-something in a bike messenger hat throwing a temper tantrum in the hallways of personal development.