The Two Faces Of Vampire Weekend

by Matt Hacke

‘cos the Orthodox girl fell in love with the guy at the Falafel shop.

Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2008, Vampire Weekend’s rise to fame as been relatively smooth, and Modern Vampires Of The City continues their eclectic mixture of Baroque, African and Rock ‘n’ Roll influences. However, originality in both lyrical content and musicality is their most potent weapon and their greatest restriction.

The sublime contrast between tracks underlines the talent of the band and their willingness to experiment with genre hybridity, the reserved romance of Hannah Hunt compared to the bravado of Diane Young exhibiting such diversity. The dense web of allusion and metaphor from both Vampire Weekend and Contra is also present here, with a reference to Croesus in Step standing alongside a name check of 19th Nervous Breakdown by The Rolling Stones. The fact is this mixes together successfully, and this is what we have come to expect from Vampire Weekend: a mélange of the exotic and grounded which creates a unique modern musical experience.

However, with such scope, it is by no means difficult to understand the central criticism posed to the band – this diversity can be interpreted as conceited, pretentious and self-congratulatory.The fact is, there is nothing quite like Vampire Weekend’s sound. Their well-documented graduation from the Ivy League Columbia University, NY, contributes to such a notion, and the spoken monologue in Finger Back seems to be an example of a band trying to prove just how clever they are. Despite being giants of the Alternative/Indie circuit, it is difficult to see how the band can take that next step when their tracks can be just too eclectic, pretentious, and dense for some.

These criticisms of Vampire Weekend are unfair though. The formula of hybridity and allusion should not be diluted in an attempt to achieve total acceptance. The fact is, there is nothing quite like Vampire Weekend’s sound, and Modern Vampires Of The City continues this innovation. Overall, the band should be applauded for sustaining the complexity and originality of their previous albums, and having been to see them live myself, we can only hope they bring their sound to Exeter soon.