When Vampire Weekend released Contra, I officially wrote them off as the typical indie band who shot to stardom solely based off of the aid of Sirius radio. And as a result they reaped the benefits of being able to procure loose groupies and free booze while touring the festival circuit but then had no clue on how to follow up their successful self -titled debut album. This left them with what seemed like their only option and that was to try and recreate the sound that got them there in the first place. They wrote music that most of us can’t identify with; songs about walking around a rich college campus, being forced to leave Cape Cod, and consuming drinks that most of us have never even heard of. Meanwhile at their shows, rich kids with their boating shoes and linen shorts would dance off beat while high fiving one other, while the rest of us just sat there with our arms folded wondering why we paid to help get these well to do hipsters laid with our hard earned money. The only hope we had for any action came in the form of Consuela the taco stand girl who was working outside of the venue.
So as I was preparing myself for more of the same from their third effort Modern Vampires in the City, I was pleasantly surprised when the opener Obvious Bicycle started up. But just as the Wolf from Pulp Fiction taught me, I didn’t get too excited too soon; I decided to let it play out for a few tracks and then realized that my wish for these guys had come true. They have finally grown in both their song writing approach and in their lyrics. Gone for the most part are the fruity and happy guitars; instead they have been replaced with all keyboards and drums. Ezra Koenig decides to bring introspective and passionate lyrics to this album by writing songs about love, his belief or lack thereof in a higher power, how that will affect his place in an afterlife, and how life in general is tough in a cold cold world. Now that’s something we can identify with! “Life IS pain your highness!”
There will be period of adjustment for the fans of their older work but don’t fret as this album is still full of songs that you can sing along to. There’s the chorus in Obvious Bicycle where Ezra bellows over and over “So Listen Oh Don’t Wait” or the hook in the 50’s sounding song Diane Young that shows that Vampire still knows how to make you dance whenever the darn well please. Don’t Lie might be the best groove on the album with the driving beat of the drums and the emotive lyrics that accompany it. And the haunting keys at the end of Hudson remind you of Miles Davis’s Oh Doctor Jesus and the feelings you get when that song graces your ears. Who would’ve ever thought I’d make such a ridiculous comparison? But it’s true!
In the end, this change of style will do for Vampire Weekend what Ok Computer did for Radiohead, or it will turn the public against them like the removal of makeup and distortion did to Kiss. Gene Simmons needs as much make up and noise as humanely possible to distract you from that face!