Vampire Weekend’s third album, “Modern Vampires of the City,” released earlier this year, has drawn some criticism because some believe its tone and style differs from the group’s previous work. “Modern” is darker; its tunes reek of existential doubt and cynicism, its lyrics speak of death, time, God, identity and betrayal.
However, if you were paying attention during “Contra,” you almost certainly noticed that those things were there all along. “Diplomat’s Son,” for example, sounds like a cheery upbeat tune, but it seems to be about a one-night stand, told from the perspective of someone who just wants to use somebody else. The album’s title track, “I Think Ur a Contra” is a paean to disillusionment, and the singer complains “You wanted good schools and friends with pools/You’re not a contra.”
The seeds of “Modern,” in other words, are present in the decay-ridden “Contra,” and it’s a short step from “Diplomat’s Son” to “Diane Young,” a song that dares to pun about death. (Read the name out loud.)
“Diane” is one of the standout tracks, a peppy, fast tune with a beach-rock guitar riff that matches its wordplay but not its dark themes. There’s also “Step,” which seems to pair lyrics about a rivalry with thoughts about, again, death. Then there’s “Hudson,” an almost-menacing, claustrophobic tune about death, betrayal, shifting identity and the inexorability of time.
There are other gems as well, but overall, the album is well worth a listen, especially if you’ve enjoyed the other Vampire Weekend tunes. I think it makes a fitting final entry in the group’s debut trilogy. That said, I can’t help but wonder what’s next…