Vampire Weekend: Contra (XL)

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Vampire Weekend: Run
Vampire Weekend: Contra (XL)

Coming to this second album by a very buttoned down and upper crust outfit from New York (who met at Columbia University) will be a surprise if you took from their name they were some dark and moody emo outfit.

When the second track White Sky kicks in you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd spent their vacation on Long Island sipping iced tea and immersing themselves in Paul Simon's Boy in the Bubble off Graceland. And Elsewhere they take their white boy pop through some Talking Heads/David Byrne-lite manoeuvres, rope in some ska-pop (as if it had been around in the late Fifties when Pat Boone was as big as Elvis) and they aren't ashamed of appropriating percussion from Latin and African sources.

There's even a little stuttering juju guitar on California English (where they resort to Autotune, but not in entirely unforgiveable way) before some odd string section jerks in.

Darlings of the indie-rock scene (but equally reviled for their pretension and cultural appropriations -- as if no one else had done that?), Vampire Weekend walk a fine line between inventive pop and slightly effete alt.rock but for the most part pull it off because they hands down smarter than most.

Consider the cover (if you are preppy why hide it?) and their track Diplomat's Son (Joe Strummer or CIA-offspring Stewart Copeland of the Police? Neither, but a wry twist on privilege.) They might be alone in mentioning carob rice cake, sweaters, trust funds and skiing in the Alps however.

There's a punk energy to Cousins ("you could turn your back on the bitter world") and everywhere a sense that this four-piece is happy to grab whatever it can to make their music intertesting, different and colourful. No bad thing.

This is indie-pop for summer and optimists, for those who love trainspotting the aural references (Bollywood, New Wave, West African pop, Latino dance pop) and aren't too troubled by allusive lyrics which don't seem to make sense, but also somehow do.

Superficially not an album you'd think much about, but it certainly rewards close inspection as much as it does being turned up loud in the car or on the home stereo.

Very clever, in a slightly sly, possibly smug, way. But the evidence is they have a lot to be smug about. 

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