Vampire Weekend


(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Vampire Weekend (2008) , 7/10
Contra (2010), 6/10
Modern Vampires of the City (2013), 6/10
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New York's Vampire Weekend, featuring keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij and guitarist Ezra Koenig, meticulously crafted a baroque, hilarious pan-ethnic stew of hooks and grooves on Vampire Weekend (XL, 2008). Their mission is, first and foremost, retro-pop. The passionate aria of Mansard Roof evokes the age of the Brill Building and the Drifters. The old-fashioned romantic ballad Oxford Comma, featuring one of the catchies melodic progressions, harks back to the era of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. M79 is classy, delirious music-hall with neoclassical harpsichord and strings to counterpoint a pub singalong. Secondly, it's party time. The pounding ska dance of A-Punk pokes fun at itself with a surreal break of flute and strings. The tuneful African stomp of Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa could have come from the pen of Paul Simon. These songs (all of them singles) have in common the same thing: an irresistible combination of catchy refrain and bouncy rhythm. Unfortunately the rest of the album does not live up to the standard of the singles. The Caribbean boogie of Walcott and the reggae rant of The Kids Don't Stand A Chance boasts cute arrangements and elegant melodies but struggle to flow with the same spontaneous verve of the early singles.

The elegantly arranged Contra (XL, 2010), whose sleek sound is mostly the work of keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, simply refined the idea, shedding the few sharp corners. Hence the Caribbean-pop novelty Horchata (replete with Rostam Batmanglij's kalimba thumb piano), the jovial ska Holiday (with a masterful cello-driven a-cappella chorus), the festive Afro-pop of California English, the sprightly Run, that sounds like the synth-pop version of a Buddy Holly ditty, Ezra Koenig's best moments come when he draws inspiration from Paul Simon's pan-ethnic shuffles and singsongs, especially in White Sky (and less successfully in Giving Up the Gun). Alas, when they abandon the lightweight format, they sink into dangerous quicksands. They lack the deviant genius to make the silly punk-jig Cousins work. The baroque ballad Taxi Cab is aimless. The solemn reggae elegy Diplomat's Son, virtually a cover of Toots and the Maytals' Pressure Drop, is mainly notable for its detours (thus wasting what actually was a great melodic idea). The falsetto ballad I Think UR a Contra is too fragile to justify the slightly dissonant electronic background. And so forth. While the arrangements and the vocals are very visible, it is often the creative rhythms of Chris Baio's bass and Chris Tomlinson's drums that truly make things happen the right way.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Alessio Morrone)

I Vampire Weekend sono una band di New York e comprendono il tastierista Rostam Batmanglij e il chitarrista Ezra Koenig. Su Vampire Weekend (XL, 2008) creano meticolosamente uno stufato barocco, pan-etico allegro di ganci e scanalature. La loro missione è, in primo luogo e principalmente, il retro pop. L’aria appassionata di Mansard Roof evoca l’età di Brill Building e i Drifters. L’antiquata ballata romantica Oxford Comma, comprendente una delle progressioni melodiche più orecchiabili, rievoca l’era degli Everly Brothers e Buddy Holly. M79 è una elegante, delirante music-hall con clavicembalo neoclassico e archi che fanno da contrappunto ad un coro da pub. In secondo luogo, è un party-time. La martellante danza ska di  A-Punk si prende in giro con un intervallo surreale di flauto ed archi. L’armonioso stomp africano di Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa può esser venuto fuori dalla penna di Paul Simon. Queste canzoni (tutte quante singoli) hanno in comune la stessa cosa: un’irresistibile combinazione di ritornelli orecchiabili e ritmo rimbalzante. Sfortunatamente il resto dell’album non è al livello dello standard dei singoli. Il boogie caraibico di Walcott e l’invettiva reggae di The Kids Don't Stand A Chance vantano abili arrangiamenti ed eleganti melodie ma fanno fatica a scorrere con la stessa verve spontanea dei primi singoli.

 

Contra (XL, 2010) è un album elegantemente arrangiato, il cui suono levigato è dovuto in gran parte al lavoro del tastierista Rostam Batmanglij. L’album semplicemente raffinava l’idea, perdendo i pochi angoli acuti. Di qui la novità pop-caraibica Horchata (piena della kalimba di Rostam Batmanglij), lo ska allegro di Holiday (con un magistrale coro a-cappella guidato da un violoncello), l’ afro-pop festivo di California English, la vivace Run, che suona come la versione synth-pop di una canzoncina di Buddy Holly,  i migliori momenti di Ezra Koenig arrivano quando trae ispirazione dai miscugli pan-etici e dalle cantilene di Paul Simon, specialmente in White Sky (e con meno successo in Giving Up the Gun). Purtroppo, quando abbandonano il formato leggero, sprofondano in pericolose sabbie mobili. Mancano di genio deviante per far funzionare lo sciocco punk-giga di Cousins. La ballata barocca Taxi Cab è inutile. La solenne elegia reggae Diplomat's Son, virtualmente una cover di Pressure Drop dei Toots and the Maytals, è soprattutto  degno di nota per le sue deviazioni (di conseguenza rovinando quella che in realtà era una grande idea melodica). Le ballate in falsetto di I Think UR a Contra è troppo fragile per giustificare lo sfondo elettronico lievemente dissonante. E così via. Mentre gli arrangiamenti e le parti cantate sono molto evidenti, sono spesso i ritmi creativi del basso di Chris Baio e la batteria di Chris Tomlinson che davvero fanno funzionare le cose.

Mostly, Modern Vampires of the City (XL, 2013) proves that the band has become one of the best interprets of the music of the 1960s for the generation whose parents weren't even born back then. In fact, the catchy Unbelievers and the bouncy Finger Back sound like (probably involuntary) imitations of Elvis Costello imitating the classics of the 1960s. The neoclassical organ pattern of Step evokes the era of the Hollies; the march-like, doo-wop-tinged ditty Don't Lie manages to sound like the Beatles, Dylan and Bowie in just a few minutes; and Everlasting Arms is a shameless imitation of Paul Simon. There are original variations on this paradigm, although one, the booming psychobilly Diane Young, sounds a bit out of context (Alan Vega backed by the E Street Band ). The other one, however, the effervescent Worship You is the album's best take on exotic fusion (with psychedelic overtones as a bonus). The rest, alas, is fodder (the odd invocation of Obvious Bicycle, the messy ballad Hannah Hunt, the cartoonish Ya Hey, the pensive Hudson) even when the intentions were good (the closing elegy Young Lion). Nonetheless, give credit to Rostam Batmanglij (guitars and keyboards) who is a force of nature when it comes to arrangements. (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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