Wednesday, 5 March 2008

LOS CAMPESINOS!: You! Me! Dancing!

At last, a British band prepared to take on the challenge of New Toronto - and there is a sweet logic about the fact that they are Welsh - so much so that they signed to Arts & Crafts in Canada and got Dave Newfeld to produce this song for them. Six-and-a-half minutes and not a second wasted, and it is only one of a dozen delights on their debut album Hold On Now, Youngster... There are seven of them and they all play and sing whatever is necessary, and the fact that among their number is a glockenspiel player should already have made them essential listening.

Any song whose lyrics include the ironic admonition "You know that we could sell you magazines if only you could give your life to literature; just don't read Jane Eyre" has to grab discerning attention instantly, and the smashing thing about this album is the long-withheld promise in contemporary British guitar music of never being quite sure where the music is heading; frequently the Sherbet Fountain rush of guitars and anxious voices are intercepted by solemn, quiet processions of slow meditation (Harriet's violin, walking in the direct line of lineage from Owen Pallett, and also the mid-eighties Nightingales, is a crucial instrument of change here) such that songs like "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats" drift off into lands of deeper, slower drifts of intensity, all the better to make the moments of restored catharsis - the thrilling intrusion of exuberant mass choruses at 2:20 on "We Are All Accelerated Readers" ("NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE!") being just one blissful example - stand out even more nobly; note also the Toni Braxton and Bonnie Tyler namechecks in the same song and the references to K Records T-shirts and White Noise elsewhere.

But "You! Me! Dancing!" is their masterpiece to date; beginning with guitar chords as slow and pensive as Hendrix at his most introspective (and slightly reminiscent of the intro to "America No More" by the KLF), the "Rock Island Line" express train rhythm starts up, and sweeps the sound into a giant, escalating whirlpool of feedback which then detonates reams of glorious freeform noises, the phoenix rising (or 1967 Pink Floyd rising anew!) before the drums at 1:39 cue the song proper; a sweating reflection on indie club night encompassing Bis and dance heroes ("if they existed") with a cautious nod at the previous generation of "crop tops and testosterone passion" before they realise that it doesn't matter that they "can't dance a single step" because, in the end, "it's you! It's me! And there's dancing!" because this is now their moment and nobody can reclaim or repossess it, and since they only have to live up to their own standards they can celebrate what they know is right and fit and the happiest of all possible existences, over a Wedding Present/Pulp thrash which resolves into magnificent consolidations of nowness: "And if it's all flailing limbs at the front line," the final manifesto proclaims, "every single one of us is Twisted By Design and dispatches from the back of my mind say 'so long as we're here, everything is alright.'" The lesson stood at the 2Is in 1957 and still does; the explosion is ours, the ecstasy contagious but non-transferable, the path is re-created. Wales' own "Windsurfing Nation." Value its never more generous awe.