Los Campesinos! is an indie pop band from Cardiff, Wales. They formed in 2006 and have been remarkably prolific since then. They’ve released a dozen singles, two EPs and four full-length albums. Their newest album —Hello Sadness— came in at #10 on my 22 favorite non-Canadian albums of 2011 list. Although they’ve managed to shed it a little bit, when they started, they were referred to as “twee”. They’ve changed a few members, they’ve matured as a band, and they’ve gotten much more professional.
Today’s song is the A side from their third single. It sort of pokes fun at, and simultaneously rejects, their “twee” image.
Like many Los Campesinos! songs, today’s song depends upon the back-and-forth co-ed vocals. This one is set up to resemble a playful debate between Gareth (portrayed as a twee fan) and Aleksandra (portrayed as a hardcore punk fan).
This is that song.
“The International Tweexcore Underground” by Los Campesinos!
At 0:26, the first verse closes with
(Gareth): I never cared about Henry Rollins
(Aleksandra): Amelia Fletcher never meant anything to me
This refers to the lead singers of legendary hardcore band Black Flag and legendary Twee band Heavenly, respectively.
Then at 1:38, the second verse ends with:
(Gareth): I never cared about Ian MacKaye
(Aleksandra): Calvin Johnson never meant anything to me
This refers to the lead singers of seminal hardcore band Fugazi and influential twee/cuddlepunk band Beat Happening, respectively.
The third verse makes direct reference to Black Flag and the song “Police Story”
This city is run by fucking pigs
then finally, their last “argument”:
(Gareth): I never cared about “whatever”
(Aleksandra): Sarah Records never meant anything to me
The song is punctuated by the trademark Los Campesinos cheerleading-style of everybody sing-shouting at once, not necessarily in harmony. And that je ne sais quoi that makes their guitar sound stand out. It’s not the most brilliant song ever, but it’s a lot of fun. And I’m a sucker for songs that namecheck indie rock stars (see: Mary Lou Lord : “His Indie World”).
Remember the back-and forth fighting about twee and hardcore punk? This single is backed with covers of songs by the bands that were namechecked.
The “B1” track is a fantastic cover of the Heavenly song “C is The Heavenly Option”, which was originally done by Heavenly on their 1992 album Le Jardin de Heavenly. On that song, Calvin Johnson made a guest appearance, and sang as much as Amelia Fletcher did. In that original version, Amelia is moaning about her boyfriend. After considering three options, Calvin gives her the advice to “kiss him”, which will eventually force her boyfriend to stop being a douchenozzle. “Love will bowl you over”. Later, Calvin moans about his girlfriend, and Amelia returns the same advice. Of his three available options, he should “kiss her” until she quits being an asshole, “and love will bowl you over”.
Los Campesinos! play it differently. Gareth plays the part of Amelia, so he moans about his boyfriend. Aleksandra plays the part of Calvin, and she moans about her girlfriend. I don’t know whether either of them is actually gay, and it doesn’t matter. No matter what, it’s a neat twist on what was a fantastic song.
The “B2” track is a cover of the Black Flag song “Police Story”. I don’t know the original version. It’s a little funny to hear Los Campesinos! sing an angry song. They don’t do “angry” very well. I also don’t know The Dirty Projectors cover of the song which also, coincidentally, came out in 2007.
So you see how the whole thing is interconnected. It’s a neat little trick that they should be proud of. I’m not sure whether the covers or the song about “dueling musical genres” came first. I’m guessing it was the title track that gave inspiration to do the covers.
I think that the vinyl version of the “International Tweexcore Underground” single is out of print and hard to find. The CD version is out of print, but easy to find. The Amazon shop, for example. For whatever it’s worth, Aleksandra isn’t in the band anymore.