Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Vampire Weekend – Cousins

Just so we’re clear, that’s Vampire Weekend as our highest-scoring single so far this year. How’s your humble pie tasting, haters? Mmm? MMMMM?…


Alfred Soto: Contra‘s toughest track is a heady swirl, combining the guitars from Talking Heads’ “I’m Not in Love,” Sting’s vocals from Reggatta de Blanc, a stop-start chorus, and a line about finding a sweater on the ocean floor into something new, strange, and thrilling, but still resolutely buttoned-down. That’s a compliment.

Chuck Eddy: Was originally thinking that hard twisted James Brown vamp at the start (best part of the song — hell, best part of the album probably) reminded me of the Pop Group or Pigbag, but now I’ve decided it’s more Contortions! Doesn’t last long, of course, but the ska taking its place feels reasonably frantic, especially with those rickety tickety winding-alarm-clock sound effects á la the Fabulous Poodles’ “Toytown People”. No idea what the dorky words are about, but it’s still the least twee cut on Contra, which btw has way too many dull slow songs sans hooks and is hence a major disappointment after the debut which I actually kind of liked believe it or not.

Tom Ewing: Vampire Weekend are a fine pop band but they’re not a singles act: their attitude to picking hits seems to be to just grab the thrashiest track on their album and throw it out there. First “A-Punk”, now “Cousins”, a more frenetic tilt at the first record’s “Campus”. The Afro-pop angle is nowhere in sight, unless Mombasa’s been twinned with Swindon recently: XTC, circa Drums And Wires, are the presiding influence here. Ezra Koenig never sounds as committed to uptight nerdery as Andy Partridge did, though, and away from its palate-cleansing role on Contra “Cousins” is a little slight.

Doug Robertson: People already own the first Vampire Weekend album, so why exactly would anyone want to buy something that is essentially just the same thing, only slightly different?

Anthony Easton: Everyone I talk to is sick of the schtick, but it dropped away for me on this album. The music is fun, and the choruses might be second rate Gabriel or Simon; but Simon and Gabriel took themselves too serious, and Vampire Weekend’s wryness undercuts any attempts at changing the world. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake is something to strive for.

Alex Ostroff: Accused of being a one-trick pony, Vampire Weekend’s second album spirals out in new directions. Songs on Contra expand into electronic textures, construct themselves around unlikely samples and are often slower, more measured and subtle compared to the debut. It’s striking, then, that lead singles “Horchata” and “Cousins” have been the tracks most ‘typical’ of the band’s brand. “Cousins” is a slice of double-time ska à la “A-Punk”, propelled forward by decorative drum rolls and the trilling, swirling guitar line. Not much new here, but it’s a good cap to the first phase of VW, rushing through their old bag of tricks in under three minutes, and fading as chimes ring out.

David Moore: Sloppy and prim simultaneously, there’s something over-thought about just about every element here: the syncopated hiccups, the imprecise drum-rolls, the kinda sorta Dick Dale falling guitar line, the silly chimes at the end. Like a dissertation on why slipping on a banana peel is funny. I have a feeling these guys would handle a pie in the face about as well as Richie Havens.

Edward Okulicz: I’m not a fan of the twin-guitar noodle attack, but the layers that add colour to this are very appealing, and the spastic flayings of the chorus are fun too.

Michaelangelo Matos: Who do they think they are, Skavoovie?

Matt Cibula: I already got called an idiot for comparing these young fresh fellows to Haircut 100 on, but this track reminds me of another great multiculti pop band: The (English) Beat. It also reminds me that every Dave Wakeling needs a Ranking Roger. Still, love the pep!

Mordechai Shinefield: Not the strongest or most interesting song on Contra by far, Ezra sings, “You can turn your back on the bitter world,” but sounds joyant, bouncy, speeding away like third-wave ska bands once did. When I saw them at United Palace Theater this month I swear I saw people skanking, validating the seasonal Ska Is Dead shows that proudly display the irony of Reel Big Fish playing a show announcing their own demise. Ska didn’t die, it just called itself indie and got a Best New Music tag.

Anthony Miccio: Even if Ezra Koenig’s band of once and former Phish fans could muster half the groove of the Police or the Attractions, I only tolerate this kind of aspiring new wave when it goes for the gut melodically (“Oxford Comma”) or physically (“A-Punk,” this).

Pete Baran: Loses a Weezer point for mentioning a sweater in the first line, but the rest is another stab at what makes Vampire Weekend so vibrant. You can talk about afrobeat arpeggios all you like, but it’s the breakneck drumming here which keeps the whole thing going. Short and sweet.

Martin Kavka: By releasing “Cousins” as a single, it seems to be that their strategy is to show that they reject the myopia of the upper class. This probably isn’t wise, for it sets up a competition as to who can “turn [one’s] back on the bitter world” the least, which will end with no lone looking saintly. But the production is crystalline, and I’ve found myself listening to this a lot, even if I yell at Ezra Koenig all the while.

Andrew Casillas: I still can’t shake the prejudice that this sounds a bit too much like an Elvis Costello & the Attractions-pastiche. Then again, at least they’re aping Elvis Costello, and not bloody Peter Gabriel again.

9 Responses to “Vampire Weekend – Cousins”

  1. god what a fucking twat he looks in that picture. despicable band who are lucky that I fell asleep before handing out ZERO last night. they need to go away immediately.

  2. i mean seriously WHO WEARS A TUX JACKET AND BOW TIE WITH JEANS just go awaaaaay you disaster of a human being.

  3. One day Lex will actually have an aneurysm listening to a jukebox single and then indie will be sorry.

  4. Now they just sound like The Coral

  5. Andrew is right, they’re better off aping Attractions-era Costello than anyone faux-African. Could be the reason that I (surprisingly) don’t hate this.

  6. Lex, it’s a still from a video where the outfit is worn for like 2 seconds as part of some dumb sight gag or something. How many of your favorite pop stars would look dumb as shit in a screengrab of some goofy costume worn in a video?

  7. I don’t think it’s too big of a spoiler to suggest that, in the course of JUKEBOX 2010, we might well find the answer to that one.

  8. I don’t see anything wrong with the outfit. Vampire Weekend is a smart bunch who don’t pretend to be what they’re not. And the music is good.

  9. […] Weekend – Cousins […]