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Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires Of The City (XL Recordings)

The name "Vampire Weekend", around the time of the band’s 2008 rise to fame, seemed to be something of a marketing disaster. Prep kids would be put off by the gothic undertones, goth kids would be disappointed that the band were wearing Sperry Topsiders and polo shirts. In reality though, while they looked like 80s GQ readers, the band’s sound revealed something deeper and more eclectic: a ‘red herring’ image to match their ‘red herring’ name. They were about clashing cultures, not propping up a hegemonic, white middle-class one.

For their third effort to be called 'Modern Vampires of the City', then, came as something of a surprise. Surely the point was they weren’t vampires, that their band name was an ironic riposte, a subversion of expectations, a ‘fuck you’ to people who’d judge before listening, not a 'Twilight' tribute.

But of course the band weren’t talking about 'True Blood'. The many vampires that populate this album are of a purely metaphorical breed. The name itself is a nod to reggae artist Junior Reid’s song 'One Blood', in which he shouts the phrase "Modern Vampires of the City" in the intro. This seems like another little clever subversion: often derided for appropriating the music of other cultures, what better way to defend their approach than to use the image of a ‘vampire’ as a byword for shared humanity, of common blood between cultures and musical heritages?

This album delves a lot deeper thematically than previous efforts, taking the band into the murky territories of God, love and death, whilst maintaining the usual humour and lightness of touch, (there are two spoken-word breakdowns). The tone is melancholic yet celebratory and grounded in organs, acoustic guitars and the unique sound of recording onto tape.

The crowning glory of the album is 'Hannah Hunt'. Daringly simple and viscerally affecting, the images constructed are painterly, almost cinematic – an idyllic and nihilistic chronicle of young love.

Just as on previous efforts, Vampire Weekend have dolefully displayed their munificence here, dishing out musical bounty for tweens and more refined listeners alike. From the bouncy melodies of 'Diane Young' to the grizzly love-song-prayer-combo of 'Ya Hey', there’s something for everyone. This is an album that will “prep u 4 ur 20s and 4 ur late 20s” as Koenig tweeted – we’re sure he’s right, and that VW’s latest is an invaluable guidebook to the highs and lows of life as a Modern Vampire.

Words: Francis Blagburn | Illustration: Peculiar Man

AuthorDuncan Harrison