If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “5 Flucloxacillin” by Los Campesinos! (2017, from the album Sick Scenes
Los Campesinos! is a twee pop/indie pop septet from Cardiff. Although they’re based in Wales, none of them is actually Welsh. They also don’t use their surnames in the band. For the purposes of the band they are simply:
Gareth Campesinos — lead vocals/glockenspiel
Neil Campesinos — guitar
Tom Campesinos — lead guitar
Kim Campesinos — vocals/keys
Rob Campesinos — keys
Jason Campesinos — drums
Matt Campesinos — bass
They formed in 2006 and have released five proper albums and a bunch of other releases. The lineup has changed a bit over the years, but it’s been pretty much the same since founding member Ellen Waddell (bass) tearfully left the band in 2012. The next year, they released a very good album called No Blues, and after a bit of a break, they’re set to release their sixth album Sick Scenes tomorrow via Wichita Recordings.
For a few weeks now, the band has been releasing songs from the album, and I like them all. It’s all everything that we expect from and love about Los Campesinos!: glorious indie pop with big hooks and lyrics full of clever wordplay.
Today’s song is about prescription medication, and sometimes the taking of unidentified pills found in the bottom of one’s bag. The title refers to flucloxacillin, which is a type of penicillin. In the lyrics of the song, they name some other medication — salbutamol (for asthma and COPD), sertraline (for depression, OCD, and social anxiety), and tramadol (for severe pain).
In a nutshell, the song is about how people in their thirties are often heavily medicated and have been for a good part of their lives. And it’s about older people not understanding that.
There’s also, in the chorus, references to competitive cycling.
A peloton of (old age pensioners) cycling up behind me
shouting “step up your paces, we’ve got places to be”
A pile-on of OAPs crashing in my slipstream
I shout “shut up your faces, I’m not your domestique”
I had to look up “domestique”, and it didn’t mean what I thought it might. The domestique is that guy who rides in front of his teammates, setting a pace and creating a slipstream for them to ride in. Eventually, the team, or the team leader, slingshots around the domestique. He works harder than his teammates do, and they get the glory.
It’s not often that heavy prescription medication and competitive cycling techniques are referenced in the same song. But that’s Los Campesinos! for you.
This is that song:
“5 Flucloxacillin” by Los Campesinos!
The intro sounds a bit like it should be in a beer commercial, but it kicks in at around 0:15 and has the unmistakable sound of Los Campesinos!. To be fair, though, they did have one of their songs in a Budweiser commercial a few years ago.
Anyway, the structure of the song, Gareth’s voice, the call-and response, the vocal harmonies, the clever and bizarre lyrics. All things that make up the Los Campesinos! signature. You’re not going to mistake one of their songs for a different band.
There’s also a great video for the song, in which the band members participate in a British game show called “Bargain Hunt”. On that show, teams of contestants buy antiques at shops, then try to sell them at auction for a profit. It’s been on the air for something like 15 years.
This is that video:
Worth noting in the video is that Gareth finds a painting of some dude that looks just like him. It’s actually something they worked up for the video. It’s based on “Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Rank”, which was painted in 1822 by the French artist Théodore Géricault. See that painting here. This, by the way, is not a thing that I know. I did some research, including using a cropped screenshot from the video to do a reverse image search of the painting.
It’s also worth noting that the red team finds a copy of the first Los Campesinos record in a bargain bin. Probably also planted for the purpose of the video.
Los Campesinos! are touring the US now, and the new record comes out tomorrow. You can buy the album via Bandcamp here.