Vampire Weekend: Contra

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Vampire Weekend 

Written By:

Brad Kelly

08th January 2010
At 13:00 GMT

1 comment(s)

Back in early 2008, you couldn't go anywhere without someone mentioning the début Vampire Weekend album to you.

They were everywhere you cared to look and listen: on the radio, on the television, billboards, on the front of every indie-glossy and all over the internet. They were fresh and preppy, immature but respectably so and ushered in a new wave of upper-class, 'Private School Indie'. After you've created such a triumphant and socially 'relevant' record though, where do you go from there? How do you follow on from your success?

Apparently by shifting into neutral and happily coasting.

Contra is basically a lesser version of their eponymous début and by lesser, we mean markedly more inferior and less inspired than everything which came before it. There's no "A-Punk" excitement anywhere, no "Oxford Comma" sincerity or "Mansard Roof" creativity in any of the eleven songs. Instead, we've got the skeleton of a decent record with a messy, underachieving body slapped lazily on top. 'This'll do guys, we're big enough already anyway right?'.

So much could be worked on and built upon or executed differently for a more complete, more successful outcome. Intro track "Horchata" has all the makings of a wintry classic but ends up becoming too saccharin as it progresses. Starting with a twinkle of strings here and a dotting of jingle-bells there is fine but they overdo it all after just a minute or two. Couple that with front-man Ezra Koenig's growingly annoying vocal twinges and you've got a glaringly unsteady start as well as a completely forgettable addition to an L.P we were genuinely looking forward to.

Successive track "White Sky" manages to straighten a few things out with a gently building rhythm and a floaty, genuinely imaginative melody. Koenig's high-pitched, verging effeminate squeals during the chorus should agitate further but, quite the opposite to that, they compliment the song, adding another entertaining facet to its enjoyable-yet-brief presence. 

Though there are obviously bits and pieces strewn across the record which show some genuine progression. "Giving Up The Gun" treads even deeper into their mathematical guitar-sounds; "Diplomat's Son" wanders further into their reggae bombast and "Taxi Cab" improves upon their string mid-sections. There's just too much noticeable slack and filler to warrant a full recommendation. It's thirty-six minutes of mediocre 'been-here-done-that' afro-indie and unfortunately what seemed fresh and slightly endearing in 2008 now seems brazenly tired and forced in 2010. 

Even the band seem to poke fun at their lack of ideas, openly borrowing and utilising the Rap genres latest craze: auto-tune. The two-and-a-half minute spazz-out that is "California English" sees Koenig spit lightning-quick, barely intelligible gibberish about 'other private schools', 'a disconnected light switch' and 'real toothpaste' with that ridiculous, robotic vocal-correction nonsense lacquered crudely all over it. It's laughable in its clichéd silliness and though its tempo is appreciated, everything else is not. 

Then there's the tiresome "Cousins" which shouldn't be listened to without watching its superior video at the same time, the diabolical "Holiday" that really is just about going away on holiday (call them the new Dizzee Rascal) and then of course the ridiculously titled final track "I Think UR A Contra" which falls flat with its frustrating sparseness and tired lyricism. They're all as forgetful as each-other and deliver a mortal wound to an already struggling effort. 

Call it typical sophomore-slump syndrome, argue that it's 'really not that bad compared to a bunch of other impersonators' and level with the fact that it is no way near as good as it should be. That way you won't be as disappointed as we are.

Rating:  5 / 10

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