I feel like I should have known what I was getting myself in for when I said I would review a Christmas offering from what are, in my mind, a notoriously odd band. If you need proof further than my opinion, then how about their song titles (Avocado, Baby and There Are Listed Buildings are two of my favourites). Oh, and the fact that every band member uses Campesinos! as their last name. Yes, with the exclamation mark. In fact, the concept of a Christmas album is a bit weird to me in itself. But I thought that this EP would be fun and amusing, so here we are. Sadly, I think they’ve destroyed Christmas for me. Forever.
On a positive note, I really like the instrumental aspect of this EP. The guitar riff in A Doe To A Deer is pretty good, and their re-imagining of The Holly & The Ivy is clever, original, and calming. There is no denying that they’re not all good musicians who know what they’re doing. Whether that goes against what is, according to their Spotify biography a ‘bratty, tongue-in-cheek viewpoint’ is another matter. It’s actually quite difficult to tell if they’re trying to make this EP sound bad deliberately, as some sort of statement.
And I suppose that is my confusion with these tracks. I find the vocals stringy and a bit cloying, which ruins my enjoyment of their otherwise decent musicianship. I suppose it’s a bit of a punk trope to have a ropey singer, but it just seems a bit displaced here. In fact, the whole EP sounds a bit off tilt, and this is possibly true of the whole band too (they have changed their line up more times than anyone can reasonably be expected to keep track of).
An EP is a chance to get rid of the fluffy filler tracks usually found in a full length album, but this just didn’t happen here. It almost sounds like a compilation of the filler tracks. Harsh I know, but go listen to The Trains Don’t Run (It’s Christmas Day) and Lonely This Christmas and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I could only bear to listen to them twice each, and that’s ten minutes of my life I wish I could get back.
The lyrics were the final straw for me, as they have a whiny depressing tone which I don’t find poetic or creative in the least. Some of them are also strangely literal and just plain bad: “White snow may turn to grey” and “I’m wrapping my gifts” are some choice examples of this. I know they’re probably trying to be a bit sarcastic about this, but I don’t think that’s any excuse for these painfully awful offerings. It’s just not necessary, festive, or pleasant to listen to.
Maybe the problem here is that I don’t really like avocado that much? Or I don’t like Christmas enough? Or punk?
Or maybe it’s just not very good. Yeah actually, it’s probably that one.