Ezra Koenig, frontman of Vampire Weekend, abandoned a teaching career in favour of making it as a rock singer, and I can bet he’s glad he did. The third album ‘Vampires Of The Modern City’ saw the band win “Best Alternative Music Album” at the 56th Grammy Awards, on the 26th January of this year… but it was by no means the best alternative music album of 2013, for it’s not even Vampire Weekend’s best work.
This album marks a distinct shift in tone for the band, when contrasted with their indie-pop album “Contra”, which was incontestably infused with African influences, a perfect match for the band’s nervy urban sound. This album sees the eradication of a lot of the pretentiousness in Koenig’s lyric writing – discussion pertaining to Oxford commas usage is nowhere to be seen – therefore the hyper-literacy that was always endearing, rather than irritating, has been eradicated.
Instead the listener is left with a lamenting, more mature lyricist that makes incredibly poignant statements “wisdom’s a gift / but you’d trade it for youth”. In such a way, the fun and ease-of-listening of Vampire Weekend has disappeared completely, along with its Calypso groove. The listener is left with a cynical, twisted commentary on life in New York City. A host of questions without a whole lot of answers are given to the listener.
New York is constructed as a place where various characters attempt to understand life, death, American foreign policy, love and religion – all this happening beneath the blanket of smog that conceals the city from view (seen on the album artwork). The old Vampire Weekend has been shrouded by a blanket of smog as Batmanglij and Koenig preach to the listener; it’s impossible to ignore the religious undertones to many of the tracks, especially ‘Worship You’ which is a rollicking battle hymn. These undertones surmount until Koenig addresses God directly. It’s clever, yes. But it’s more wistful, more adult than anything they’ve done before, and the rate at which the band has evolved has been simply too quick.
No longer is the listener bopping their head to a song about drinking Horchata in the winter; instead they are forced to tackle the big questions about life, death and the in between – questions that we haven’t been able to answer for as long as human beings have been sentient … so what on earth makes Vampire Weekend think they can provide a satisfactory discussion of these themes in merely 45 minutes?