Review: Modern Vampires Of The City
One of the most effective devices for framing a powerful narrative is geography. While spinning a story that tells of a journey, sometimes a physical journey, often mental, often metaphorical, it helps to have a geographic point of reference to bind time and space and emotion. Arguably one of the greatest albums of the 2010s, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs found brothers Win and William Butler revisiting the suburbs of Houston, specifically The Woodlands, where they spent formative years of their youth, trying to rectify memories past with how they see the city, and life, as adults. It’s a raw, honest album, and I’m tempted to say that Modern Vampires Of The City is Vampire Weekend’s The Suburbs, for more reasons than being the group’s third effort, and their best.
Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut LP and its follow-up, Contra, are products born of the Atlantic Ocean. Invocating summer beach houses owned as second homes, pastel-colored shorts, and wind-whipped hair dancing across wayfarers, Vampire Weekend and Contra take place in the Massachusetts Bay during “on season”. Modern Vampires of the Weekend, being called the final installment in a trilogy of albums, is a much more mature and mortal work that returns to Brooklyn and Manhattan after vacation is over and the the boys from Vampire Weekend have put their boyish days behind them.
The loss of youth, aging, and death are the most prevalent themes that swell up among nods towards Judaism and American Nationalism. Ezra Koenig takes both subtle (“I walked into town to buy some kindling for the fire, Hannah tore the New York Times up into pieces” and “A stranger walked in through the door, said ‘All apartments are pre-war’”) and blunt jabs (“I want to know, does it bother you? The low click of a ticking clock?” and “You know I love the past ’cause I hate suspense”) at his feelings on inevitable maturity. Before I heard the album, I felt like the title Modern Vampires Of The City was embarrassingly on-the-nose, but after several playthroughs, it’s just stating a simple fact. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, “Holiday”, those things are part of who Vampire Weekend ultimately are but they’re in the past. In the now, the modern Vampire Weekend has returned home to the only city that can be called The City, and they have to look for life and love where they are.
Though Modern Vampires Of The City is, in some respects, a morbid album, it’s most certainly a beautiful album. The band goes for more styles and influences here than ever, and while the majority of the songs are of a slower, soulful variety, I still have the most fun with the uptempo jams. “Diane Young” could be early-era The Strokes, and “Unbelievers” is just a straight up rock and roll song about undying, and dying love.
9/10 – On the album’s first track, Koenig belts “It’s been twenty years and no one’s told the truth” – but Modern Vampires Of The City is the truth. And the truth is that Vampire Weekend have their, and our, whole lives in front of them.