It’s been a mere few months since Los Campesinos! released their last album, “Romance Is Boring”, yet despite this they still feel the need to put out something as a stopgap of sorts. These kids are nothing if not productive – after all, they did release their debut full length “Hold On Now, Youngster” to critical acclaim, only to follow that up some months later with the 10-track “non-album” titled “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”. This new EP “All’s Well That Ends” is in fact a legitimate, 4-song release from the band, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in any other format other than digital. It’s also really something for steadfast and dedicated fans of the band, as there aren’t any “new” songs in this collection. Instead, this EP features 4 songs from their last album “Romance Is Boring” redone in sparse, nearly acoustic arrangements. The tempo gets slowed down and there’s a few different vocal turns as well, allowing for certain more subtle elements of each track to really get pushed forwards.
In case you’re busy sorting through your mp3s and are too clumsy to notice the difference between these EP versions and their originals, Los Campesinos! have helpfully added a few additional words to each song title. Starting out with “Romance Is Boring (Princess Version)”, they turn the punky original into something that’s a little plodding (and quite frankly a little boring…just like romance!), but there are some nice instrumental touches with the acoustic guitars, slide guitar, piano and violin. The most markedly different (and quite frankly exciting) track on the EP is the remake of “A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; or, Letters From Me To Charlotte”. Here it’s retitled “Letters From Me To Charlotte (RSVP)”, and the most noteworthy change is in vocalists, where one of the girls in the band sings. Given that Aleks has now officially left the band, they don’t have a female voice that’s quite as strong as hers. That’s evident from whomever (Kim or Ellen, etc) is singing “Letters to Charlotte (RSVP)” in a duet with Gareth, though to be clear the singing isn’t bad or off-key in the least. Lacking confidence might be the best phrasing to use when describing it. Yet it’s also remarkably effective with the tragedy and general sadness of the lyrics mixed with the acoustic and violin sentiments. “Straight In At 101/It’s Never Enough” has new doubled over male vocals courtesy of Rob backing up Gareth, and it gives the whole pathetic chasing girls lyrical scenario that much more creedence. It does come off as a bit odd though, what with two guys not so much singing but more delivering that spoken word vocal without so much as a harmony. Then again, Los Campesinos! don’t really do harmonies. Where “(All’s Well That Ends) In Medias Res” shines is in the actual execution. The otherwise busy and fast-paced original track that opens the “Romance Is Boring” album may have a ton going for it, but this new quieter version allows for greater focus on the lyrics and other moody nuances.
For an EP that’s tough to find physically and essentially only for Los Campesinos! completists, the band is doing the right thing by making its availability somewhat scarce. Unlike many acoustic or stripped down records that bands tend to release, “All’s Well That Ends” isn’t quite as good or revealing as you might hope it would be. Perhaps the biggest reason for that is the very complicated and unique nature of Los Campesinos’ music in the first place. They have so much going on in each song and there’s plenty of energy that goes into each performance, so when you strip all that away you’re left with are Gareth’s lyrics, which are quite brilliant but no different than they were originally. Sure, this stripped down approach gives you a reason to focus on said lyrics amid what otherwise would have been busy arrangements, but in the world of Los Campesinos! if you listen to each regular album track enough you’ll get around to the deeper meanings and entertaining wordplay eventually. Best to view this EP as a curio, something at the very least worth hearing just to know what the band does when the chips are down and the glockenspiels are put away. Anything beyond that and you’re probably going to struggle to figure out why it was worth the few dollars you spent on it.