Modern Vampires Of The City
I should have possibly always liked Vampire Weekend – given the very overt Paul Simon influence. But I’ve often found that anything that sounds just a bit like Paul Simon, or like it wants to sound like Paul Simon, annoys the shit out of me, fails to hook me in and – in short – fails. So that was pretty much how I wrote off the band’s first album, bunch of privileged white boys who discovered Graceland while staying at a Hamptons holiday home drinking Two-Buck Chuck and huffing home-made party-pill substances.
Vampire Weekend is a band that has been a bit like The Arcade Fire for me – in that I can recognise some talent, applaud the use of textures as an attempt to do something more/something other with/in indie pop – but I just don’t buy the hype; don’ t get the pop-your-cork accolades.
All that said I’m really digging the band’s new album; considered the closing chapter of a trilogy by the rabid fans no less.
To me this record is standalone – because the world music gimmick (and that’s all I ever heard it as, a gimmick – even if it was well-played, on a technical level) has been removed. This is about big, glorious pop hooks, happy, shiny choruses and – ultimately – clever, catchy, memorably (sometimes witty) pop songs.
In that sense I’m reminded of Dirty Projectors too, not at all in the sound but in the commitment to songwriting, to show something of substance behind the hype, behind the hipster-fans, behind the trace-the-press-release-sheet-journalese. Just as Dirty Projectors really stepped up with their last album and stripped it back to just the songs, no gimmick, same goes with Vampire Weekend here. In accordance with the Paul Simon influence there’s a hint of R’n’B/doo-wop vocal groups this time around, cleverly (perfectly) subverted.
Perhaps the cleverest trick to this album is that it won’t alienate the fans that have worshiped the band across its other two albums – and it has the power to turn on new fans, that slight shift in direction that suggests a maturing even though that’s such a death-knell-dirty-word. Here is a band newly energised, thoughtful and stepping out beyond the hype. Just as much as there were huge expectations around this album the band has sidestepped that by actually changing gears, by taking a new direction, by focussing on the content rather than the style.
There’s so much cleverness in this record – and usually that’s annoying. Usually it ends up unpicking itself to leave emptiness; a hole. But I can’t fault this record. I like it so much more than I thought I would.