In a rare moment on Romance Is Boring, during "Straight in at 101," lead singer/songwriter Gareth Campesinos! (all members use the surname) slows down long enough to announce in an emphatic, heavy-hearted manner: "I phone my friends and family to gather around the television / The talking heads count down the most heart-wrenching breakups of all time / Imagine the great sense of waste, the indignity, the embarrassment / When not a single one of that whole century was mine." Based on the context, there's the sense he's referring to his songwriting career here, not necessarily romantic failure, which tells us something about the whippersnappers from Wales: Underneath the sexual tirades and flippant lyrics--"I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock" barely scratches the surface--there are lofty ambitions. The want a breakup song on the next VH1 countdown, dammit. And so on their third album, they fully realize their "calculated chaos" approach to music making. Make it sound like you don't care to cover up the fact that you do care. Quite a lot, actually.
Accordingly, Romance Is Boring takes up a lot of space. More often than not, all seven members play their instruments at the same time, making for an album that attacks from all sides. Slow, climbing numbers like the death-and-addiction ballad "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future" sit amidst frisky F-you's ("Romance Is Boring") and hell-raising singalongs ("Plan A"). While the package evolves the giddiness of their debut and the nervous energy of its follow-up, at first it sounds like a mess of post-everything (punk/twee/emo/even a little ska) with whiplash pacing and scattershot ideas. Repeated listens reveal a few real revelations in the Campesinos' craftsmanship, though. Backing singer Aleksandra always swoops in at the right moment to save Gareth's spoken-yelped vocal delivery, the new brass section adds bombast, and the lyrics--they're blunt, smart, funny, sung in heavy Welsh accents and situate the band somewhere among Art Brut, Titus Andronicus and Love Is All. They shouldn't be bummed about not being included in some cable-show countdown; they should be happy they can write a lyric like, "I've written eulogies in guest books of galleries in the hopes that you might pass" and still seem charming.