Vampire Weekend may be stuck in a perpetually losing battle to live up to those infamous first impressions left by their self-titled debut.
Modern Vampires of the City is more of a confusing journey than an album. Right from the start, the first track, “Obvious Bicycle,” seems intent on lulling listeners into an album more or less theme-less and indefinable. It doesn’t fit at the beginning given the aura of the rest of the album. The song is just too slow. It seems, for lack of a better place, tacked in front as if the song is apologetically saying, “There’s nowhere else to put me – I promise the rest of the album is faster.” Granted, this is somewhat forgivable given the song is cute and sincere, and also fairly listenable if you’re in the right mood (one unfitting of conventional Vampire Weekend listening). But this sort of awkward, “What is my purpose”? predicament the song’s placement offers seems to be one of the only coherent themes construed from the album. “Don’t Lie” in particular epitomizes the album’s directionless and ambling tendencies: a song with a hook that makes sense, but in no way, shape or form is capable of being anyone’s favorite track. One could argue the last 20 seconds or so of the tune is gold – which it is. But when all’s said and done, the only thing worth paying attention to is that 20 seconds, which is unfortunately too short-lived to be truly deserving of any real credit.
The song “Finger Back,” feels, looks and smells like the “old” Vampire Weekend, you know, the one that people actually liked. So why, oh why did Vampire Weekend need to go and colossally screw it up with its “book-on-tape” approach near the end of the song? The singer spouts some strange, accented monologue about love in Jerusalem. Fully out of place, it feels like watching someone take the lead of an intense race only to watch them crash and burn in the very last stretch by an act of senseless showboating. It is awkward, out of place and comes off as completely pretentious. This album is not good enough to pull a stunt like this.
“Everlasting Arms,” however, is a refreshingly enjoyable song. It brings a nicely syncopated bass accompanied by sweet and mellow synth chords together in a tastefully simple way familiar to the band’s likable sound. It’s one of the rare moments on the album where the band isn’t beside itself trying to reinvent or genre-bend. They keep it fairly simple in a way that pleases listeners and music snobs alike to produce a charming yet graspable Vampire Weekend sound.
Finally, for those of you familiar with Vampire Weekend’s past work, “Ya Hey” is to Modern Vampires of the City?what “Cousins” was to Contra. It’s the album’s clear summit and really the only thing to truly “hit the mark” if Vampire Weekend was aiming for one. It’s got elements of the weirdness subtly implemented throughout the album that the band is clearly trying to get across, namely in the “Alvin and the Chipmunks”-styled vocal effect in the chorus part (repeating “Ya”) which the band pulls off successfully. Moreover, the catchy progression of the song itself, steered by a complimenting bass and drum combination, is extremely easy to latch onto and reminiscent of the band’s first album. In respects to the album as a whole, it could have had a much different outlook had the band stuck to the winning formula that is “Ya Hey.” However, this is one of the few standout moments found within Modern Vampires of the City.
In summary, listeners, do what you did with Contra and listen to the album’s hit. You’ll save yourself the headache and sophistication of deciphering the rest of this messy album.
2 out of 5.