Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vampire Weekend- Contra

    Well, shit. This was going to be my golden opportunity to put the hipster jackoffs in their place by lambasting this record, but early on, two things occurred to me- 1) No one reads this blog or cares about my opinion 2) Contra isn’t as awful as I had assumed it would be. There, I said it. And you won’t need to know the Konami code to get through it, either.

    The major focus of the album has shifted away from guitar-driven cutesy indie pop. Instead, Vampire Weekend let loose their formerly subdued affection for worldbeat, baroque, and electronic music, at the cost of most of their lyrical cleverness. Example: singer Ezra Koenig opens the album with the line “In December, drinking horchata/ I'd look psychotic in a balaclava”, complete with the highbrow vocal trills that make Vampire Weekend instantly recognizable.

    Contra is undoubtedly the result of tremendous studio post-production in a highly controlled environment. For this reason alone, the album lacks any real passion. Even the blaring mariachi horns on “Run” tuck themselves glassy-eyed into the thoroughly vaccinated mix. Percussion takes the same treatment, and comes off sounding mechanical, as though the band constructed a massive clockwork octopus out of cogs of pretension to beat each drum head in time. The real nail in the coffin is their choice to autotune to the quick-tongued “California English”, making an already below-average song sound like trash.

    Despite the many weaknesses of Contra, Vampire Weekend deserve some credit. They were blasted into the public consciousness as indie darlings, are now signed to XL, and are managed by the same guy as The White Stripes, and still have the good sense left to say “fuck no, we’re not writing the same album again”. As a quick listen through Contra will tell you, they took the immobility of their stardom as an excuse to experiment. Ok, I can dig it. But for every new African tribal rhythm or pseudo-Mozart arpeggio that exceeds expectations, ten more fall completely flat. “Giving up the Gun” stands out as the worst offender. Predictable bass and boom-chick drums are glued together into a lame dance track, which is comparably painful to listening to your grandmother discuss her bowel movements. You’re bound to hear this record, whether you want to or not, and it’s not tremendously good. Wait for album three and hope they have their shit together by then.


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