Modern Vampires of the City
May 14, 2013 Web Exclusive
Vampire Weekend is touting their third album, Modern Vampires of the City, as the conclusion of a trilogy. And that descriptor sort of makes sense—their self-titled debut introduced the world to the Columbia grads who could converse with both Cape Cod and Lil Jon, 2010's Contra expanded their palette to more international (and less annoyingly precocious) concerns, and this newest album brings their efforts back to New York, quite literally if you take the cover photo and title at face value. Even the lyric video for "Step" seems to suggest the band wants to be modern-day Woody Allens, recording the pulse of the city through their art in order to say something deeper about all of us. Like all of their albums, these aims would be annoying if Vampire Weekend wasn't so good at making great music.
Sadly, unlike its predecessors, Modern Vampires of the City just doesn't have as much good music to justify its lofty ambitions—much less to allow the listener to overlook the band's more irritating impulses. Songs plod along where they usually soar, choruses become repetitive, and sometimes you wish for a little more feeling not hidden behind a two-foot-thick protective wall of irony.
Of course, this being a Vampire Weekend album, there are still plenty of giddy highs: "Step" is the best song they've ever put out, with a harpsichord line and a wistful sense of lost youth making the imagist lyrics seem simultaneously beautiful and sad. "Hannah Hunt" is a lovely ballad, "Diane Young" is guaranteed to lodge its tricky chorus in your head, and "Young Lion" is a beautiful coda.
But such songs as "Don't Lie," "Hudson," and "Everlasting Arms" are listless like Vampire Weekend songs have never been. Even relatively successful songs such as "Ya Hey" are undone by boring choruses and lyrics so tongue-in-cheek they sound totally devoid of empathy. It's odd to hear a band so clearly able to create catchy melodies out of all kinds of influences put out songs that seem so lifeless.
Vampire Weekend remain one of indie rock's biggest success stories. And maybe on the strength of singles like "Step," they'll stay that way. But Modern Vampires of the City contains something no other Vampire Weekend album has—boring songs. Trilogies don't often end well, and while there's more good than bad, it's still disappointing when listeners know what could have been. (www.vampireweekend.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10