Los Campesinos! Exclamation Point Not Optional

Sep 23, 2013
Originally published on September 23, 2013 3:53 pm

NPR Music’s writer and editor Stephen Thompson brings Here & Now a new song each week to jazz up our play lists.

This week it’s a song from the upcoming album from Los Campesinos!. The album is called “No Blues” and the song is “What Death Leaves Behind.”

Thompson says the punctuation in the band’s name isn’t just casual.

“The exclamation point at the end of the band’s name belongs there, because everything about Los Campesinos!’s music is clamoring to be heard at the same time,” Thompson told Here & Now. “The accents can be a little thick, and they tend to stuff hundreds of words into each song, so a lyric sheet does come in handy with its music — but the words are always smart and evocative, so it’s worth puzzling them out.”

While the exclamation point is a good indicator of the band’s sound, don’t be fooled by the Spanish-sounding name; the Welsh band has a modern English indie pop sound.


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NPR music writer and editor Stephen Thompson brings us a new song each week. He sat down with Robin Young to share what he is listening to.


Stephen, what have you got this week?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Well, I've got a lovable UK band called Los Campesinos! - with an exclamation point after the name. The exclamation point at the end of the band's name belongs there because everything about Los Campesinos!'s music is clamoring to be heard at the exact same time. So they're sung in very thick accents and they tend to stuff hundreds of words into each song, so a lyric sheet comes in handy. But the words are always smart and evocative, so it's worth puzzling them out. This is a brand-new song from the band called "What Death Leaves Behind."


GARETH CAMPESINOS: (Singing) I was the first match struck at the first cremation. You are my shallow grave. I'll tend you as a sexton. If you're the casket door that's being slammed upon me, I'll be a plague cross painted on your naked body. Well, summer sighed and summoned up hail. Dirty in dish rack drips the holy grail. May be heartslob but I want 'em to know, cut and shut us a like a portmanteau.

YOUNG: OK. So I heard may be a heartslob but I want them to know, cut and shut us like a portmanteau.


THOMPSON: Yeah. There's so much blurted out in any given line of a Los Campesinos!'s song. They don't always read smoothly when you pull them out of context. The line you mentioned, may be a heartslob, but I want them to know. It's a heartslob. Cut and shut us like a portmanteau. So you break that apart and you have this new word that the singer, Gareth Campesinos, has created, heartslob. And that's a combination of two words two make a new word, which is called a portmanteau. And by the time you realize what he's done, the band is long since sailed on to the chorus.

So it's a really fun song like all their songs. It's a really fun song to unpack. It can sound like a complete shambles at first, but the band really knows what it's doing.

YOUNG: I love the word heartslob. That's actually going to be one I'm going to use know. And I love somebody who can use portmanteau, but they do sort of have - we've talked about this in other bands. They have sort of a throwback sound. I found myself thinking who do they sound like.

THOMPSON: Oh, you know, I'm not even entirely - I'm not even sure where I would draw a comparison. To me they really don't sound like anybody else just in terms of - their songs are these big, brash, loud vocabulary lessons in a way that to me I just find myself stopping a lot and studying their songs. At the same time, they're very cheerful sounding or like people are singing in unison. So there's this gigantic party of words going on.

YOUNG: And I was thrown too; you are throwing these songs at us. We're hearing it for the first time. I thought it was going to be sort of with a Mexican lilt.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, well, because of the band's name.

YOUNG: Right.

THOMPSON: Yeah. They are full of surprises. They're from - they're based in Wales now. So they're much more rooted in UK pop music and rock music than anything with that look(ph) to it.

YOUNG: OK. Well, Stephen Thompson's song of the week for us, "What Death Leaves Behind," from Los Campesinos!. It's on the new album "No Blues." It comes out October 29. You can download it for free on the band's SoundCloud page. And what do you think it sounds like? I'm wondering - now I'm thinking maybe Talking Heads or kind of a tiny bit of Talking Heads there. I'm not sure. And what do you think of it? We always want to know. NPR music writer and editor Stephen Thompson is just offering it up. Stephen, thanks so much.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

HOBSON: Well, from a new song to an older one.


KURT COBAIN: (Singing) What else should I be, all apologies.

HOBSON: That is, of course, Nirvana. Tomorrow, a new edition of Nirvana's final album, "In Utero," will be released 20 years after it first came out. We're going to look back at the band with HERE AND NOW pop culture critic Renee Graham. And we want to hear from you. Were you a Nirvana fan? What are your favorite songs? Let us know at facebook.com/hereandnowradio. That conversation about Nirvana tomorrow on HERE AND NOW.Hmm.

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.


And I'm Sacha Pfeiffer, in for Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.