It would be unfair to demand that Los Campesinos! recreate the staggering pop-punk consistency of Hold On Now, Youngster. The Welsh sextet's 2008 debut beats the Ramones for sheer density of mixtape-quality songs. Their follow-up, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, was good, and the title track is fantastic. Romance Is Boring did not have a single, and Hello Sadness was a mopey breakup album. Like that, Los Campesinos! became one of those bands whose every release is worse than the one before.
No Blues solves that problem with alacrity. In the sense that it is upbeat and poppy, it constitutes a return to form. But it does not just atavistically revisit the screaming choruses of HONY, even if it resembles that album more than the other Campesinos releases. No Blues integrates the self-lacerating lyrics and upward phrasing that has made latter-day Los Campesinos! sound like the Cure, but it does so in a way that solidifies the band's sound. It's like a career retrospective of new songs—for better and for worse. Los Campesinos! are a particular taste, and the band's fifth album suggests the musicians' artistic development may be a closed loop. But I am glad to find them back at the beginning.