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CD Review: Vampire Weekend's Contra

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The Deal: Vampire Weekend misses the point again.

The Good: Futura typeface on the cover.

The Bad: You're at a party, and some jackass is waxing pretentiously about the obscure Bollywood collection that's inspired his songwriting lately, and the totally awesome African thumb piano he used on this one track. Later, you overhear him trying to con the skirt off some star-struck co-ed with earnest talk about the importance of using "vocals as a texture, as an instrument," and how a friend's decision to stop "eating meat after the U.S. invaded Iraq" affected him so deeply he just had to write about it. By evening's end he's touting his band's bottomless reservoir of influences, shamelessly name-dropping Buddy Holly and Kate Bush and Lil Wayne and Operation Ivy into a bouillabaisse that makes no distinction between fresh seafood and rotting chum. (BTW, all the above dropped names and douche-y quotes above are from Contra's press materials.) It's all done with a dilettante's half-baked understanding, but nobody protests because, wow, his band's so hot right now, it just has to be good, right? No, it doesn't. The Ruby Suns, Le Loup, Extra Golden, Fool's Good are just some of many who've spliced together similar influences into much more intriguing shapes that pulsate with exotic rhythms and the joy of experimental cross-fertilization. Here, cold calculation (c.f., AutoTune) drains the untidy thrills from these wellsprings, leaving only husks of hook-less, seizure-inducing dance beats. VW goes multi-culti because it's the fad du jour; 15 years ago, they'd have been Bush.

The Verdict: The sounds of shark-jumping.

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