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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Vampire weakened?

Contra, the second album from Vampire Weekend, hardly needs a blasting or a blessing from Eyewear; in a time of vampires, their counterintuitive blend of Graceland era world music and preppieish pop is top fang. They're now seriously big in a fresh indie way that The Strokes could not sustain. I recall their debut as an utterly beautiful spring of new joy. It was also arch and subtextually ironic.

Contra continues the buried lyric references to military history (especially failed rebellions), and architecture, while keeping the songs mainly surface-level about love and privileged youth (as in the song "Diplomat's son"). Musically, the ten clean songs here are, if anything, an improvement- better produced, more complex and a teensy bit more varied. Still, the band's leitmotif is rich uniformity- the cover design of their new album is almost identical to their last- so the songs are almost identically upbeat and as fun as first time out.

The image of contradiction and mirror opposites plays well across the album as a whole which is bookended by the best two songs, the first the more romantic ('here comes a feeling you thought you'd forgotten) and last- pace Radiohead- the most wistfully haunted. Some query the band's non-Kleinian insistence on Yes Logo modishness- the pretty girl on the cover is branded by Ralph Lauren's polo player. Perhaps the contradiction between music from Soweto and casual glamour from the American mall sums-up our anti Copenhagen moment as well or better than Cormac's dystopias.

This will be a top ten album for 2010 unless something miraculous happens. But hard to imagine where they grow from here.
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