When I first heard the new EP Sticking Fingers into Sockets by Los Campesinos!, it didn’t exactly blow my hair back. For one thing, brainless euphoria like this just disturbs me. For another, I fucking hate exclamation points. I don’t know when my attitude on this album shifted back into reality, but once it did, it felt like that moment after a long trip where you come home and your dog tackles you in affection, a feeling that is not too far off from the one these songs generally tend to channel. Ultimately, you have to be like stage-five Machiavelli-cynical to not enjoy listening to this stuff.
Los Campesinos! is just the latest of a growing trend in indiedom where bands are baptized into virtual semi-stardom by the Web, starting with an early demo posted by the band members themselves (2006’s Hold On Now, Youngster EP) and riding ye ole binary wave from there straight to supporting gigs with the likes of Danielson Famile and Broken Social Scene (whose producer, David Newfeld, was later recruited to produce this very EP). The grassroots formula of the band’s ascendancy weirdly fits its sound, which in two words or less may be described as, to quote XTC, “stupidly happy.”
“We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” is pretty much your indie-pop song textbook for melody and efficiency, going from breathless verse to shimmering chorus in little more than ten seconds yet never once feeling rushed. “Don’t Tell Me to Do the Math(s)” offers the best advice you are ever going to hear in a pop song: “Don’t read Jane Eyre.” (Seriously, don’t.) And “It Started with a Mixx” begins with what may just be the defining existential bind of indie rock: “trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop.” “You! Me! Dancing!” is the centerpiece of Sticking Fingers into Sockets, occupying roughly a third of the EP’s sixteen-minute playtime. Musically this song is about as good as anything I’ve heard this year (I’m a total sucker for that slow and spare opening that progressively blossoms into explosion, and this song just nails it), but lyrically it’s a bit foul. I mean, how many more times can we hear pop singers analogize dancing with intercourse? (Oh, and memo to Los Campesinos!: picking on boy bands these days for being vapid commodities is about as much a revelation as calling Hitler out for being, like, so totally racist.)
Personally, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with the whole boy-girl vocal shtick, but Sticking Fingers into Sockets is a pleasant exception. And although lyrically Los Campesinos! aren’t exactly going to end genocide in the Sudan, this music is still vital and alive in a way little music is these days. Stand by for 2008, when they are scheduled to release their full-length. Until then, come here and get some joy.