Vampire Weekend- Contra (2010) XL Recordings, by Adam

Posted: February 17, 2010 by Adam in Album Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Cutting straight to the chase, here is the difficult thing about writing this review. I want to start the whole thing without saying terms like ‘Afro-pop’, ‘preppy’ or mention Peter Gabriel once in relation to Vampire Weekend. This is going to be incredibly difficult to do.

So here goes,

Contra is the second album from prep… (What, already?!)

Contra is the second album from indie band Vampire Weekend. The album title is understood to be a reference to a group called Contra that was active against militant communism during the Nicaraguan war.

The album carries the same Afro… (God damn it!)

The album carries similar musical themes to the bands self-titled first album which is by no means a bad thing.

Free single Horchata, released near the end of last year, was a pretty shrewd release before the album. If there is one song that you could single out as defining the overall sound of the album I would say that Horchata was a pretty good call.

Referencing a traditional drink made from ground nuts and seeds, the familiar Peter Ga… (BUGGERATION!)

Referencing a traditional drink made from ground nuts and seeds, the familiar ex-founding member of Genesis influenced sound (see what I did there?) is evident everywhere on the track and this occurs throughout the album. The familiar lyrical content, which manages to tiptoe along the border between conceited and profound, is enhanced by a deeply layered synth. The maze of drums which occasionally threaten to but never quite envelop the song is also a running theme throughout. The song lays the foundations for the whole album with some of the best songs ‘Giving Up the Gun’ and ‘Run’ echoing the same layered effect.

Second single ‘Cousins’ (check out the video HERE) harked back to the band’s first album with it’s back and forth guitars and syncopation. It is nice that Vampire Weekend haven’t lost their knack for these kinds of songs, there is always room on an album for a new Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa or A-Punk. While the band have clearly developed and the production on the album has become more complex they never stray too far from the familiar shores of the upmarket collegiate sound that some might say they pioneered in 2008 with their first album.

There are so many great parts to this album as a whole. Whether it’s the tender chorus in ‘Run’, the driving drums of ‘Giving Up the Gun’ or the delicately introduced M.I.A sample in ‘Diplomats Son’. ‘Diplomats Son’ was written by lead singer Erza Koenig (I know stupid name! How do you even pronounce it?) while he was at boarding school. The songs individually may not stand the test of time but I think this is one of those situations where the whole album may survive, not on the strengths of the songs but because of its overall quality.

On a serious note what is certain is that the band haven’t lost their Abercrombie and Fitch image. It is perhaps a little disheartening that while I do really like Vampire Weekend I sometimes feel like I am falling into a trap. A trap which will lead me into Urban Outfitters and convince me that I really need to buy an overpriced camera which only takes black and white ‘Look at me I’m so hideously cool I must live in New York and be a douchey photographer or something like that’ style photos or a mug with a moustache drawn on it . I have just one more thing to say to Urban Outfitters, my life was complete before I owned a checked shirt, skinny jeans and a book on graffiti ‘art’. I don’t really need you at all despite what you tell me, so HA PEACE!

So let me finally say that the way to get the best out this album is not to listen to the songs on their own but instead put it in your car’s CD player and listen to it as a whole on a very long drive while pretending that you are wearing a Polo shirt, you actually have money and you are heading to Martha’s Vineyard…..not Slough…..which is shithole.


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