There has always been a sense of childish mirth associated with Vampire Weekend. Their self-titled debut was a folly, albeit an extremely well written one; fit for parties with chandeliers champagne and vests as opposed to the cheap beer flannel affairs that often are associated with reality. They were perhaps the most pretentious sounding band at large, and it worked because that is what Vampire Weekend were trying to do, that was what Vampire Weekend was all about. Of course Contra saw them grow up a bit, the whole album felt very well rehearsed, like a well planned outfit saved for Saturday night in comparison to Friday night’s spontaneous rags, and to stick with that metaphor next comes Sunday, and with it Modern Vampires of the City. Is the Vampire Weekend trilogy a coming of age story? Absolutely it is, but not for the band alone; rather for us, the alternative culture that Vampire Weekend very much has had a hand in shaping. For the first time in their career Vampire Weekend is not trying to beat you over the head with how clever they are, and boy does it make them sound clever.
Modern Vampires of the City is by far the most fleshed out consistent album Vampire Weekend has put out to date. I had always applauded their first album for its consistency, but that record doesn’t stand up quite as well as it used to. It really makes we question their debut, something that happens pretty much every time a band puts out an album that is undoubtedly better than the one you fell in love with a few years back, a feeling ever the more efficacious because of the themes of Modern Vampires. When you make an album that is a de facto reset, a burning of the Saab so to speak that attacks what you have previously been all about it better well be better than what you are leaving behind, and Vampire Weekend really nailed it. Could they have made another preppy record like Contra? Probably not, and while that may well be what fans would have preferred, Modern Vampires is good enough for no one to care that its different.
The songwriting. The songwriting on Modern Vampires is so much more than what Vampire Weekend had previously put out. Sure, the band had hinted at greater themes than prep, like the undeniably poetic “Here comes a feeling you thought you’d forgotten,” of Horchata, but still they hid behind the obscure Spanish drink reference. Here they drop those references as the main vehicle of the songs, and while there are a few precocious allusions they don’t dominate the writing. It just feels so much more adult, where the first album felt like it was written by a guy who got into an Ivy league school, this new one feels like it was written by that same guy who now maybe doesn’t care where he went to college, or maybe even is ashamed of the advantages that come with the money in his pockets. Modern Vampire is regretful for certain, but not for us the listener. There is no regret associated with buying the album, and it very well may be one of the best reviewed albums come end of the year time. Without a doubt, the gutsy direction that Vampire Weekend chose paid off for them, the record is likely as rewarding to listen to as I’m sure it will be for them to have made.