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Vampire Weekend

Once America’s answer to the ARCTIC MONKEYS, XTC or The POLICE, quirky indie saviours VAMPIRE WEEKEND have now enjoyed two chart-scaling sets in their relatively short musical lifespan. Formed in New York City in 2006 (taking their moniker from leader/songwriter Ezra Koenig’s freshman film project at Columbia University), VAMPIRE WEEKEND have bitten into the vein of the college campus sect, while the immediate impact of their impulsive chamber-pop embrace everything from PAUL SIMON’s “Graceland” (example `Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’) to a similar era PETER GABRIEL.
Singer/guitarist Ezra, plus fellow songwriter Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards/guitar/vocals) , Chris Baio (bass/vocals) and Chris Tomson (drums/percussion), spread the word at the odd campus party; distributing a self-financed debut EP to anybody interested. The CMJ Music Marathon exposed the quartet to a wider audience, and tours supporting The DIRTY PROJECTORS and The SHINS, creating a buzz which duly tempted XL Records to give them a shot at the big time.
Incorporating skanky cod-reggae, staccato rhythms and the odd neo-classical touch, their eponymous transatlantic Top 20 debut VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2008) {*9} contained no less than five singles, two of them minor UK hits: `A-Punk’ and the er… sing-a-long-a `Oxford Comma’. Like some sort of architectural sequel to UNIT 4 + 2’s “Concrete And Clay” from way back, opening salvo `Mansard Roof’ was surely one-that-got-away. Ditto the strum-y `Campus’ and the STING-ing `The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance’.
Groundwork achieved, anticipation for their sophomore album, CONTRA (2010) {*8}, was realised when it swept into the No.1 position. If PAUL SIMON had been a punk-rock affiliate, he’d an album similar to “Contra”, albeit with twee rebellious overtones as befitting its title. The joyous and uplifting `Horchata’, `White Sky’ and UK Top 40 breaker `Cousins’, were obvious highlights, while `Diplomat’s Son’ sampled TOOTS & THE MAYTALS and M.I.A. – Jamaica had new ambassadors, all the way from Upper West Side Manhattan.
Their ability to cross a generation (or two), helped the eclectic VW equal sales for album number three, the Ariel Rechtshaid-produced MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY (2013) {*7}. Premiered by the GEORGE MICHAEL/BILLY JOEL-tinted hit, `Diane Young’, the well-crafted melodies of their heartfelt dirges balance on a precipice between raucous rock and preppy pop, but as usual complexity and exuberance win the day via tracks `Unbelievers’, `Step’, `Everlasting Arms’ and the historical `Hudson’.
Now without Rostam; who departed in 2016, the ensuing few years for the trio (adding touring alumni: Brian Robert Jones – guitar, vocals / Greta Morgan – guitar, keyboards, vocals / Will Canzoneri – keyboards, vocals / and Garrett Ray – drums, percussion, vocals) was marked by some enticing collaborators for sessions on 4th album, the double FATHER OF THE BRIDE (2019) {*8}; their first for Columbia Records. A tad country tinged with gospel-electro, the well-structured set saddled frontman Ezra (now an L.A. resident) alongside HAIM’s Danielle on three classy cuts: opener `Hold You Now’, `Married In A Gold Rush’ and `We Belong Together’; easy-on-the-ear songs that could well embrace the older wayward listener. On the other side of the spectrum, The INTERNET’s Steve Lacy added a touch of R&B on back-to-back tracks, `Sunflower’ and `Flower Moon’. Their third chart-topping album in succession, lush pop-rock melodies, `Harmony Hall’, `Bambina’ and “the modern-day Brown-Eyed Girl”, `This Life’, more than deserved their top status. VW’s longevity would be down to whether they could keep apace with so many young pretenders biting at their boots.
© MC Strong/MCS May2013-Jun2019

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