Modern Vampires Of The City is a delicate album full with all of Contra‘s sounds of the circus, but in the gap between these works Vampire Weekend have graduated: no longer writing about campus life and awkward run ins with Oxford Commas, MVOTC expresses a kind of dreary half-emptiness which is post-college disillusion, ageing and re-jigging the usages of time.
Hannah Hunt, much like single Step aborts the playful jibes in the wake of brand new frankness, which is experimented with variously – HH’s delicate piano goes ecstatic for partnership, and elsewhere there are forays into harder guitar – Diane Young, Finger Back – but, as the former’s name may suggest, the tracks are still bent on chatting about death and stuff.
The band still forefront cutesy lyrics ‘You and me, we’ve got our own sense of time’, which sit apart from other hungry musical eclecticism, as on opener Obvious Bicyle and outro Young Lion, which in their abstractness seem to illustrate the band’s frustration, and in their placing, pin-point their objection to the straight-forwardness of some of the simpler guitar music by which they made their name.
Vampire Weekend illustrate their doubts beneath groggy, displaced sound codes that require initial patience to process. There’s occasional big-scale party potential; but often this is an intellectual album and a calm triumph.
”I’m not excited.” Thus Ezra Koenig, head Vampire, on ‘Unbelievers’: a madcap rockabilly dash with the conflicting nihilism/exuberance of Morrissey and Marr.
Although the colours remain vivid and the influences sundry, the New Yorkers don’t profess to be excited anywhere on Modern Vampires of the City. On ‘Diane Young’ it’s all ‘getting old’ this, ‘love the past’ that.
Familiarly springy melodies are cloaking existential worry. This gets confronted in ‘Step’; its tinkling harpsichord signposting the band’s quest for reassurance within human knowledge and tradition: ‘the gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out’.
Collecting shared experience – wisdom – is the quintessential Vampire Weekend way of making things right again. Biographically, Modern Vampires records a college band that headed separate ways (after 2010’s Contra), before realising life together beat atomisation beyond the campus green.
The album venerates spiritual congregation in tough times: of loving, not fighting. Koenig and co’s worldly palette even looks to the imagery of religion, as on the superb ‘Everlasting Arms’, and everywhere swirling church organs are heard.
Reportedly, they tested the record on every conceivable budget headphone to guarantee mass-scale listener enjoyment. It’s a great band portrait: paranoid, obsessive, but utterly unifying. Modern Vampires is complete and unified; all the more so for the dark complexities it grapples with.
It’s Phillip Marlowe on a sunbed. It’s Voltaire in a baseball jacket and Perseus in a hot-dog outfit.
Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City is mesmerising.
The 3rd album in a trio of wonderful records.
The band describes this as the ‘final instalment in a triology’, and it certainly feels like they’ve reached a peak. The naïve boyishness of the self-titled first album, through to the more measured beauty of Contra, to the mature and perfected sound they have achieved on Modern Vampires Of The City.
This album holds gems such as ‘Diane Young’, ‘Step’, ‘Everlasting Arms’, ‘Finger Back’, ‘Worship You’ and ‘Ya Hey’ and while they are the pick of a bunch; the rest of the bunch are ripe and ready to be enjoyed.
‘Step’ was my highlight. A melody that felt familiar yet fresh and exciting. Koenig’s vocal purity shining out in the sort of slow burning track that Vampire Weekend excels at.
Where do Vampire Weekend go from here?
Whilst this record certainly leaves me wanting more, I am also interested in seeing what new direction they might go in.
And as I sit here I can see a wild spider that I know lives happily in a gap behind my T.V scuttle out and wonder around.
He has no idea where he is going.
Well Vampire Weekend can go wherever they want. They have earned it.
Watch the brand new video for Diane Young featuring Santigold and Chromeo, released as a Double A Side with 'Step'