We’ve been hearing about how impressed we ought to be with Vampire Weekend for a few years now. So it’s about time one their albums lived up to all that noise. Happily, this is the one that does.
Their first two efforts were distinctly underwhelming, and were far too readily dismissed as overpriced MOR. Their third, Modern Vampires of the City is a far more substantial affair.
Though if you were hoping to dismiss them as yet another hopelessly pretentious combo of studiedly casual pomo musos from you know where, then you’ll be gratified to learn that this is apparently the third and final installment of a trilogy, a triptych if you will. And yes I know, only the pretentious use the word “pretentious”.
On the always excellent All Songs Considered podcast, which I reviewed earlier here, the genial host suggested in an extended interview with them that this was a considerably darker collection of songs. Which is a little misleading. Vampire Weekend are to melancholia what Michael Haneke is to levity and joy.
And yet, this is an undeniably weightier work. Without ever beating you over the head with it, the figure of Time lingers implacably throughout, lurking in the shadows. Many of Ezra Keonig’s consistently impressive lyrics ponder the inevitability of death and decay in a way that’s only possible when you’re in your 20s and none of that sort of thing has any real relevance.
However impressive it is lyrically, it’s even more expansively intelligent and voraciously eclectic musically speaking. Indeed, if anything, they manage to so successfully meld the many, many musical influences that it’s sometimes hard to pick them apart. As the rapt review from the boys from Pitchfork said, where it got an august 9.3 , the chorus to track 3 revolves around a sample of a sample of a sample.
Nonetheless, the songs soar thanks to a combination of those lyrics and the band’s ability to conjure up a string of infectious melodies. The best of which combine on that track 3 “Step”, where Koenig muses:
Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth,
Age is an honour – it’s still not the truth.
You can see, hear and read the song on Vampire Weekend’s official lyrics video here.
Few lyrics can stand up to that kind of scrutiny. Most would be rendered ridiculous and even embarrassing. Far from being the exception on the album, “Steps” is very much the rule. And Modern Vampires of the City is sure to resurface on many people’s Best Of end of year lists.
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