Vampire Weekend // Modern Vampires Of The City // May 13, 2013 // XL
NYC’s posh kids Vampire Weekend are still knocking on the door which is something to marvel at considering who they are and what they do. A bunch of polo wearing rich kids ripping through their African influences to create some sunny indie pop songs that are meant for both twee Apple commercials and little girls who think that geek chic is still a thing. While neither of their two albums they’ve put out were exceptionally good, they offered enough single material to keep us somewhat interested. Modern Vampires Of The City is the forced album where a once cheeky band is supposed to sound darker, grittier and grown up. But instead of showing their maturity, it merely puts the group’s happy eyed vision into the format in which they can no longer thrive with just a giddy chorus.
Modern Vampires Of The City is Vampire Weekend’s third record. They’re not one of those bands who feel the need to rediscover themselves with every new release. The new album will feel right at home with their pleasant for its time self-titled debut and diminishing returns collection that was Contra. If anything, it captures the meaning of “diminished returns” even better than its predecessor. Hardly any of the songs on here reach the fizzed up heights like A-Punk or Cousins. Even the moments that come across as more rowdy are somehow not fun at all. Diane Young is this answer to Vampire Weekend’s two previous lead single successes. It’s only a shame that it feels awkwardly digital. Ezra Koenig’s vocals are mangled as soon as he tries comes as sincere while the guitar and drums stutter as if there is a glitch in the recording. It’s the same past meets present trick that was used on Contra’s California English with its focus on autotuned vocals. While it may sound fun, it certainly doesn’t work when you face the fact that Diane Young is a pretty atrocious surf rock pastiche that could only ever succeed if only it had some authenticity. On here, Vampire Weekend sound like pretenders more than ever before.
The sad thing about the record is that the features of Diane Young are the best that Modern Vampires Of The City have to offer to the listener. The rest we can already get from their first two records. From the carefree string arrangements on Don’t Lie to the below basic baroque styled keyboard arrangements on Step, the stuff that Modern Vampires Of The City has for its listener is incredibly dull in its presentation. Working within the same old posh baroque pop template, Vampire Weekend are just unable to sound exciting by utilising the same songwriting tricks again and again. The baroque element on here is at its most bare with some of these songs feeling awkwardly naked. When Vampire Weekend fully commit themselves to their influences they expose their inability to do them any justice. The careless, summertime feel that’s all over the album is more She & Him than Beach Boys and the production feels too sugary which doesn’t help those few moments when the band actually do go out of their comfort zone. What’s even more ridiculous is the pathetic attempts to come across as adults by putting some dark space in these tracks. Their version of dark is shallow beyond belief and if there is someone who is actually fascinated by this excuse for depth then we suggest reading Kafka or something entry level like that. Ezra and co are still as deep and agreeable as I Wanna Hold Your Hand. It’s a change that somewhat puts Vampire Weekend out of their familiar zone but for a band that is a sum of parts created by others, their understanding of anything that isn’t indie baroque pop is laughable.
Modern Vampires Of The City is the third consecutive record which finds Vampire Weekend leeching off the twee without ever committing to it. It takes the same template that was used on their previous two records and forms new songs around it. It’s only the shame that the songs on here are painfully unimaginative and the only gimmick the record has going for it is the clash of old and new. It rarely works and most of the time it’s annoying as fuck. Take Ya Hey, a track that combines vocal splicing and pitch manipulation with a piano melody that is so entry level Beethoven you’d be thinking whether these chaps actually heard of classical music beyond the 15 seconds of Moonlight Sonata. The lighthearted energy that made the best Vampire Weekend songs (Horchata, White Sky) is nowhere to be found. Modern Vampires Of The City is meant for those clueless little girls that are only into this band because Koenig looks dreamy or something. Otherwise their musical creations are debatable and their artistic depth is non-existent.