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Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend [Album Review]

September 7, 2012

Mansard Roof / Oxford Comma / A-Punk / Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa / M79 / Campus / Bryn / One (Blake’s Got A New Face) / I Stand Corrected / Walcott / Kids Don’t Stand A Chance

Sorry its been a while guys! Have a review!

The entire world has contributed to the Vampire Weekend sound. We journey through Africa via England, then across Europe, before popping into the home of Stephen Malkmus for a pot of tea. Suffice to say, I can’t think of another band that sounds quite like Vampire Weekend, particularly not an American band from punkish guitar haven, New York. Vampire Weekend are educated guys though and education can destroy your punk-rock roots from the word go. When you have a singer that occasionally, and rather disturbingly, sounds like Sting, what can you do? You hire a string section, go Paul Simon and name check Soweto and Peter Gabriel and do the soukous African sound rather delightfully. You write about grammar and campuses yet manage not to sound like Weezer. Phew. My first thoughts upon listening to the album was Are these guys the American ‘British Sea Power? It’s a valid comparison but then the Pavement influences come in through the slightly lo-fi sound. To confuse matters, the lyrics are obtuse and intellectual and the guitars range from glorious African sounds to classical themes, supported by string sections as and where appropriate. Quite an intoxicating mix!

The eleven songs present fly past in a nifty thirty-one minutes. This alone is a refreshing aspect of the album. ‘Blake’s Got A New Face’ is a good place to start if you want something ‘typical’ to represent the sound of the album. Guitar and percussion threaten to be 50s rock n roll. Keyboard sounds threaten to be 80s new wave. The singer goes through his Sting impression, the backing vocals are pure traditional African world music, a touch of Violent Femmes for seasoning, stick in the oven for just ten minutes and out it pops, done. ‘Walcott’ is an exciting mix of that upside down tortoise shell African drum, plus real drums, plus a two hundred mile an hour pop/rock rush. The closing ‘The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance’ is a lovely little story-telling type tune. Classical strings weave in and out the instrumental sections quite beautifully. I’m getting excited listening to this stuff, how long have we had to wait for a band being able to write actual hummable melodies yet also present a new sound? Vampire Weekend isn’t deep and heavy, yet has these intelligent touches, such as the lyrics and the strings. Ah, the music for ‘The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance’ makes me grin, the simple main melody then all the little melodies sparkling around it. Heavenly.

Further highlights? Just the opening tune is enough to indicate something different is going on. A rock band performing with some driving percussion aka Joe Meek, weird sounds abound and Randy Newman / Van Dyke Parks seemingly get involved in the lyrics and vocals. ‘M79’ is this weird medieval thing, only with funky bass lines and very silly, happy melodies. ‘Oxford Comma’ is almost normal, yet those glorious African guitar sounds shine through. Finally, ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ really demonstrates those Paul Simon ‘Graceland’ influences well, right down to the vocal intonations. ‘Vampire Weekend’ have created such a fun album! True, there are not exactly oodles of song-writing craft here, yet repeat playability is very high indeed all the same. Two words, buy it.

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