Hold On Now, Tubster
Although we’ve done the Mexican arm drag exchange thing before, this isn’t about my previous exchange of words with 90s alopecia poster boy Steven Wells, nor about his recently acquired belief that second generation immigrants like myself are apparently some kind of elaborate fucking song-and-dance spectacle put on for the benefit of blue-eyed devils like himself. Nope, it’s August 18, 2008 and Stevie Boy’s crotch is bleeding over twee pop and, in particular, Los Campesinos!.
I’d like to think that Wells has done anything other here than take the never-ending “Belle and Sebastian are rubbish not good like you think aaaaahhhh” spiels he was knocking out in the late 90s and “find and replaced” “B&S” with “Los Campesinos”, “Stuart” with “Gareth”, and “wanker” with “paedo” (cancer makes you edgy, apparently).
You can clown on this piece for hours by attacking it for its utter shoddiness, the tragic death of the sub-editor writ large by him describing LC as “all in their late 20s” (they all finished their final university exams within the past year), or the fact that he paints Cymru’s finest as a “14-legged abortion”, and then later goes on to promise to break into the homes of “all eight members of Los Campesinos”. Which is funny, because I didn’t realise that Robert Wyatt was a member of LC.
But no, let’s go on it for what it is, ignoring the fact that it’s “Tigermilk morelike Ti-gay-milk” redux. Los Campesinos! work as a band for a number of reasons, probably most prominently of all because they’re a proper harkback to the Peel-approved tweeish bands of the turn of the decade (Belle and Sebastian, Hefner, etc etc) insofar as that there’s something knowingly pathetic about them, but a patheticness that’s balanced out with alternating sugar rushes and moments of genuine anger.
Despite their views on gender politics and animal rights, LC aren’t going to change the world, but trying to clown them for having an opinion and making a couple of songs is… gutterdumb. Remembering that Swells’ favourite acts of the past few years have been Tory shitbag Lily Allen and Girls Aloud, whose effective spokesperson beat an African immigrant toilet attendant up in what was described as a “racially motivated attack”, it’s weird that he seeks further clapped out Trot assurances from LC that he doesn’t demand elsewhere. Maybe if he has a chug over an act it absolves them of any political responsibility?
The greatest thing about the whole piece, however, is how it clearly featured the word “white” seventy-six times before someone pointed out to him that Pitchfork’s Nitsuh Abebe was actually, y’know. Black. Which gives the rest of the article’s “your kind of people don’t know about guitar music” a very, very awkward subtext. If the thought of that makes you feel a little awkward, you could always balance it out by considering the piece’s bizarrely-shoehorned in reference to the “musclehead” Henry Rollins’ with the passage from Rollins’ autobiography about how, during a Black Flag tour of the UK in 83, a spotty hack from the Brit music press spent an entire interview chastising him for not doing songs about the (then ongoing) Yorkshire Miners’ Strike, before turning off his Dictaphone and asking Henry if he’d take a listen to his band’s demo. That writer’s name? Steven Wells.
If you really want to get clued into how relevant Swells is in the 08, the piece features him ganking gags from ALAN MCGEE of all people (the Mock The Week-esque “Wet Yr Bed” quip). You couldn’t be any more stranded in the late 90s if you were stealing your zingers from TQ.
It’s a shame, because back in the day he was a half-decent troll: more harlequin baby than Rickroll admittedly, but none the worse for that. Now sadly, as one DiS commenter put it: “Wells is a shadow of his former self, like Bontcho Guentchev turning out for Hendon”.
Apropros of DiS, and as a brief aside, this article appeared on The Quietus the same day that Quietus gaffer John Doran announced that the blog would be splitting away from Drowned In Sound and relaunching as an independant website. DiS’s lead story for the past four days has been advertising the upcoming tour headlined by Los Campesinos! that they’re promoting. A massive, massive coincidence, I’m sure.