Sunday, January 10, 2010
Continuing to wander musically among the verdant (Grace)lands of African pop whilst naming their album after a neo-colonialist American military offensive indicates that, while their album might be the most anticipated release this summer, VW have still not grasped the basic tenets of giving back as much as you take.
Essentially the band has made the most predictable second album they could and since they had a lot of distinctive appeal and a way with melody, it’s not entirely a bad thing, just not very interesting. Like so many hip new bands, there is little sense of excitement or unpredictability, everything necessary to meet fans and label’s carefully determined expectations.
A lot of bands after a successful first album have a bigger budget and go to another, more exotic location to record; Vampire Weekend went to Mexico City. Bands often cease writing about experiences and become more contemplative as their point of view alters and they look inward for inspiration. Ezra Koenig’s lyrics concern…well…bugger all really. He continues to throw words together with little care for comprehension and a lot of thought about juxtaposition (You found a sweater on the ocean floor / They're gonna find it if you didn't close the door – Cousins), though the subjects seem to concern travelling and judgements about other people. Koenig’s lyrics are more repetitive and lack the imaginative turns of phrase and dictionary-swallowing pretentiousness that made Oxford Comma and Mansard Roof stand out from the first listen. Contra is a less immediate listen and is unlikely to win people who weren’t won the first time round. The album suggests stories rather than telling them while the band have clearly ignored charges of elitism thrown at them by many critics, though this will matter little to most youth radio listeners who are already accommodating songs like Cousins and opening track Horchata on summer playlists.
While no band wants to repeat their first album, the most predictable move is to take what makes you distinctive and slightly build on it. Here VW prominently feature synths, drum machines and auto-tune and use them like you imagine they would; carefully. While Contra lack the sparseness of VW’s better-known efforts it is a smart, considered and, despite occasional bursts and peals of hyperkinetic African-pop as on White Sky and Cousins, fairly dull album, one that through all this careful consideration, lacks the excitement and contrasts of the début. Now, when is that new Ruby Suns record due?