Review: Vampire Weekend, Contra

SUNDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2010

Vampire Weekend – Contra

 
There’s a mood for Vampire Weekend. A ‘VW Mood’. You have to be in the zone, or just With It. For instance, you can’t listen to them while you’re feeling terribly serious. The wood blocks, silly guitar lines and the occasional xylophone would probably push you to madness. But, and its a big but, if you are in the mood for VW, then it will work for you. I’m not suggesting you have to be daft or have a session of Alphabeat before, because it is crucial to have a certain level-headedness in order to appreciate certain subtleties.

 
VW (i hope the ‘VW’ acronym isn’t causing too many issues within car lovers) have been a way a while . A long while. An almost unforgivingly long while, were it not for the results of ‘Contra’. Streaming their album on long-forgotten MySpace probably wasn’t a wonderful idea, for me personally anyway. Taking one listen, i initially dismissed it. The inclusion of more synths and quirky beats put me off. (I’d been listening to Arctic Monkeys constantly since August. I was not feeling in a ‘VW Mood’. I was very much in a serious guitar driven mood.)
 
But, what was clear was that, with Batmanglij taking time off to polish off his own synth-based record, he learned how to compose, properly. And it is no secret that without Batmanglij’s stringed arrangements, VW wouldn’t have half the sound they have.
‘Contra’ takes a while to listen to, to get to grips with. That is no bad thing, all of the best albums are. It takes a while to get into a ‘VW Mood’. But, once you are in, you are in. All of these songs have character, and while they may not jump out at the beginning, they develop and become very like-able.
 
Single ‘Cousins’ is the new ‘A-Punk’, with little more than Guitar, Bass and Drums. And, although it is a crowd-pleaser/radio cert, it is the other songs that add more substance to ‘Contra’.
I assume most VW fans are now fed up with ‘Horcharta’. Personally, it is not a strong song, and is very annoying right from the start, especially as they gave it away free long ago and we have overplayed it so very much.
 
Next single, ‘Giving Up The Gun’ and ‘Diplomat’s Son’ are both strong songs, but my favourite is ‘White Sky’, which was actually written at the same time as the first album. So, after hearing this at the Blur gig at Hyde Park in the summer, it was great to hear a polished version.
For me, the most disappointing song is the closer, ‘I Think Ur A Contra’, not least because of the clear grammatical errors. More musically, it is a typical slow closer, and i don’t think VW like slow songs. They don’t seem comfortable with them unless they have a deep African beat combined with a couple of cheeky bongos.
 
Bearing all of this in mind, ‘Contra’ is full of similar VW trends, just with more keyboards. Not as clear/genre defining as the first, but it was never going to be.
Besides, no-ones favourite album of a band is their second, everyone knows it’s their third album where we really decide if we like them, right?
 
7/10
 
1. White Sky
2. Giving Up The Gun
3. Diplomat’s Son
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