More about: Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend didn’t really have to make a fourth album. Their splendidly lean, tautly self-referential triad of existing LPs – Vampire Weekend, Contra, Modern Vampires of the City – all sparkled with rare wit and slapped with inventive rhythmic pizazz.
Each represented a distinct, discrete phase of Ezra Koenig and co’s voyage through their twenties, from smart-alec Ivy League kids, to smart-alec alt rock dandies, to smart-alec mizzogs living high on the hog in NYC, fretting about their own mortality.
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Anyway, that was yonks ago. Co-founder Rostram Batmanglij fled the nest, and Ezra Koenig peaced out of the Upper West Side in the general direction of sunny California, and his first kid with upscale boning partner Rashida Jones (the surly one off Parks and Recreation).
He’s done all sorts since, including a batshit Netflix anime thing called Neo Yokio and a shit-hot collaboration with SBTRKT. Even the bassist (Chris Baio) had a bit of a solo dabble.
So the questions is – should Koenig have just made a solo record, and left Vampire Weekend’s painstakingly crafted legacy to slow-burn its inexorable pathway into the pantheon?
Father Of The Bride kicks off with ‘Hold You Now’, whose hookline “I can’t carry you forever” must be a dig at Batmanglij, if not I literally don’t even know what a dig is anymore. Fight me. You’ll have heard track two ‘Harmony Hall’ on the radio I expect. It’s fucking lush, like the music you hear when you wake up on a fluffy cloud and St Peter’s all like, yeah, nice job, off you go to heaven mate, enjoy.
Ezra Koenig is a brainy lad, and its 2019, so obviously that tangerine wankstain in the White House gets the odd oblique jibe – “wicked snakes inside the place you thought was dignified” – as does climate change – “the seasons we have don’t mean anything”, on ‘Spring Snow’, or “how long till we sink to the bottom of the sea” on the infectiously jivey ‘How Long’.
Still, one of the key intellectual threads this time around is, I'm afraid to say, petulance. I almost couldn’t believe ’Unbearably White’ the first time I heard it, a naked attempt to goad the woke into losing their shit over a dicey bit of wordplay. That, plus THE STATE OF THE WORLD. And, bless him, romance.
There’s no fewer than three (count ‘em!) country-fried romantic duets, with one of the girls off Haim. They’re rather lovely, actually, a surprising but welcome diversion into full-throttled Americana from a geezer who got famous whinging about oxford commas.
‘This Life’ is a worthy single, and one of the best songs of the decade I’d say. Vampire Weekend really are a stonking band; every bar bursts at the seams with inventiveness, and flair, and humour.
Yeah, there’s laughs aplenty. Have a listen to ‘Rich Man’, which is basically Ezra Koenig flexing about how loaded and fabulous he is – ‘When I was young, I was told I'd find / One rich man in ten has a satisfied mind / AND I’M THE ONE.’
Probably, maybe, the absence of a worthy sparring partner in Batmanglij has let the odd experimental howler creep in. I happen to love ‘Sunflower’, a madly ambitious vocal exercise smashed out, presumably high, with Steve Lacy off The Internet. But you’ll most likely hate it, and you’ll be quite right. ‘My Mistake’ is a bit of a dirge, and a strong argument for this mammoth 18-track beast of a record to have been administered a stern short-back-and-sides, but the production just about salvages it, and Koenig actually is kind of a genius.
He lives in California now, you see, so a bit of bagginess is to be expected.
It’s an accomplished, meaty, interesting, original, colourful, textured record. My one disappointment is that there isn’t quite a ‘banger’ per se, like ‘A-Punk’, or ‘Cousins’, or ‘Diane Young’ off previous albums. But whevs. He’s a bit older now, and somewhat more introspective, yet nonetheless more than willing to use his platform to tell us what he really thinks, even when it's kinda maudlin, even if it makes him sound a bit soppy. Like a father of the bride, really.
More about: Vampire Weekend