So I thought I was done with Vampire Weekend. I bought and enjoyed the first two albums, but as with many albums I’ve bought in the last decade, they didn’t feel like they sustained my interest and eventually I stopped listening. I was ready to file ‘Oxford Comma’ and ‘A Punk’ under tunes from a certain era, and then move on. And when I first heard new single ‘Diane Young’, it confirmed my waning allegiance. It sounded irritatingly hyperactive, like a throwback to their first album. One trick ponies that got found out, I thought to myself.
And then the reviews started coming in. Huge leap forward, they said. New maturity, they said. Surprisingly introspective, they said. And I listened to the minute long previews on iTunes, and within 5 minutes I’d bought it.
The reviews are right. This is an album that states that Vampire Weekend are not just preppy boys playing Graceland-style pop. It starts off with with the downbeat Obvious Bicycle (still need to work on those titles now and again, boys), with its repeated imploring to ‘listen’, as if the band are insisting we reconsider them. And then we go on really quite an odd journey, that feels both like a crisis of identity set to pop music (Ya Hey, surely one of the album’s highlights, appears to be a bleak exploration of faith and Jewishness), mixed with beautiful tunes (Step’s brilliant Bach steal, the gorgeous Hannah Hunt – probably my favourite song – and the album’s small, melancholic closer, Young Lion) and in amongst them, some reliable bops from the old school Vampire Weekend – such as Unbelievers and the single, Diane Young. The latter suddenly makes so much more sense in the context of the album as a necessary shot of fizzy sugar in amongst all that wistful existential angst.
And its funny that the band started off with Paul’s Simon’s Graceland as a template, because it’s Simon’s songwriting that most comes to mind – both his late work with Garfunkel and his early (brilliant) solo albums. That’s quite a comparison, but I think the songwriting on this album is that good.
So yes, a great leap forward and a sign that these boys are hear to stay. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.