Tuesday 15 October 2019

Vampires' thrilling love letter to New York city

Vampire Weekend's new album is a veritable love-letter to their native New York.
John Meagher

John Meagher

Album Review: Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City (ZL Recordings) ****

If Ezra Koenig and friends were apprehensive about Difficult Third Album Syndrome, it doesn't show on this uber-confident and eclectic collection.

A veritable love-letter to their native New York, it finds the quartet in the most experimental place of their career to date. The Africa-influenced indie of before is still present, but there's so much more that's shoe-horned into songs that vie for mass appeal and the avant-garde at the same time.

Few bands this side of Talking Heads have managed such a fine juggling act. But, on the evidence of this ambitious work, Vampire Weekend are more than capable.

The sample-heavy Step is typical of their genre-hopping adventures: vintage synths, a harpsichord and choir compete – gloriously – for the listener's attention, while Koenig's clever-clever vocals intrigue.

"The gloves are off," he sings. "The wisdom teeth are out."

Worship You, meanwhile, is all about a charging rhythm and a discordant melange of instrumentation that would be a mess in inferior hands, but sounds vital here. And Hannah Hunt is a batty, but utterly compelling, tune replete with Koenig's guttural howl at the end.

There are plenty of less frenetic songs too. The hymnal Obvious Bicycle is arguably the most affecting song this band have yet written, while Everlasting Arms is a tender, gorgeous ballad that dispenses with bells and whistles.

It has to be said that there are occasions where the band's yen to try new things founders and there are comparatively few tracks as immediately appealing as early favourites A-Punk and Oxford Comma. But, as an exercise in not staying still, Koenig et al excel.

KEY TRACKS Step; Obvious Bicycle; Everlasting Arms

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