Friday, March 19th, 2010

Vampire Weekend – Giving Up the Gun

You wanted to see it…


Anthony Easton: You shouldn’t have to come out if you have Mr Gyllenhaal playing tennis in shorts that short.

Alex Macpherson: Insipid, aimless and timorous: this is basically Owl City with a different kind of “interesting” (ie: derivative and dull) arrangement. That applies to the excruciatingly awful lyrics, too, in which Vampire Weekend throw one strained, clunky image after another at the song in the vain hope that something will stick. One feels sorry for Jake Gyllenhaal: from a cameo in last year’s triumphant “Blame It” video, now reduced to this.

Alex Ostroff: The best song by a country mile on an album full to the brim with best songs. “Giving Up the Gun” is the sum of hundreds of tiny musical joys — the swirl of electronics at the outset; the stuttering dubby guitar line that drives the song forward, only to disappear abruptly at the end of each line; the subtle choral harmonies as the first verse winds down; the instrumental breakdown that seamlessly weds trilling melodic guitar with buzzy beats. And floating atop all that is Ezra’s most assured vocal to date: “When I was seventeen / I had wrists like steel / And I felt complete.” The evocation of a life unlived and the pervasive sense of approaching obsolescence are masterful and affecting, like a less explicit take on LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”. “And now my body fades / Behind a brass charade / And I’m obsolete.” (And I mean, with Jake and the JoBros and Lil Jon behind them, is there anything they can’t do?)

Chuck Eddy: Okay yeah, now I remember! This is one of the ones from their album that I thought was trying somewhat gallantly but still ineptly to have a “dance rhythm”, as in post-disco not just post-ska or post-worldbeat. At least it’s not one of the lousy ballads. Uh… I’m pretty sure I didn’t think there was anything else interesting about it then. Still don’t. Don’t mind when the gurgling comes in, but its welcome wears out. Still not danceable, either.

Martin Skidmore: Limp US college indie, with a simpleminded tune, fussy instrumentation and terrible singing. I am entirely mystified at their success – I can’t hear anything in them that I can imagine anyone liking at all. This seemed to drag on for hours.

Rodney J. Greene: A big part of what I liked about the first Vampire Weekend album was that while most indie pop bands using colorful sonic palettes overwork themselves painting every available inch of canvas with bright hues, VW were content to leave white space. Their productions were smaller and more focused in scope, which I took as a sign of confidence. They knew they could catch the listener’s attention rather with tunes, rather than bombast. Here, they succumb to that urge for huge. It shouldn’t work, the bells and choirs and crap should, by all means, only get in the way. But they are still as tuneful as ever, and the hook is strong enough to cut through the chiming glop. I just don’t like the style as much, even as they are hardly at fault.

Ian Mathers: Just as Hot Chip are our New Order, these guys are our Talking Heads (yes yes, that’s reductive, I know). I fail to see the problem, especially when the songs are as lovely and gently aching as this one. It is a bit longer than it needs to be, but it’s hard to begrudge them that twinkling, buzzing middle eight.

John Seroff: I went to a chili-tasting competition a week or three ago and one of the chilis in question boasted “vegetarian gluten soy product” as its key ingredient. It was, predictably, vaguely unremarkable stuff and when the chef demanded a response, the best I could do was “I can really taste the gluten”. That pretty much sums up how I feel about Vampire Weekend. I don’t have anything against them exactly; they sound just fine while you’re waiting for something better to come on and their bouncy, positive vibe leaves them totally sufferable. I will probably enjoy them a lot more in a few years when they get around to adding some spice and red meat. For the moment though, you can really taste the gluten.

Briony Edwards: The musical approach in this track is an interesting one (especially when compared to their previous output) – gently driving drum riffs and melancholic, yet upbeat, vocal harmonies are helped along by pretty xylophones and soothing basslines. Although decidedly less fraught than what they have offered prior, the Postal Service-esque minimalistic style still embodies the promise of summer they were initially heralded for.

Iain Mew: Unusually for Vampire Weekend, this is all about the forward momentum when the bass kicks in and its subsequent trips in and out from behind the second verse. It never reaches the same level, and they definitely pile a bit too much on by the end, but the chorus is sturdy enough to take it.

Alfred Soto: A dozen plays exposes the treacly nature of the chimes, but the indelible chorus remains, doing much to illuminate the vague narrative. This sounds more like Haircut 100 than their other singles – with shrewder musicianship and a lead singer who can negotiate between feyness and toughness.

18 Responses to “Vampire Weekend – Giving Up the Gun”

  1. “This sounds more like Haircut 100 than their other singles”
    man, EVERYTHING they do sounds like haircut 100

  2. when i called her Ms Gyllenhaal, it wasn’t a typo.

  3. I have rarely felt so alone! I’m pleased Alex made himself write about this one, so that I am not the lone anti-VW voice here.

  4. Chuck got a good diss in there too! And I agree with John about how unremarkable this sounds, I can’t hear any hugeness or indeed any hook at all.

  5. Pretty sure I thought “Holiday” (which I like slightly more than this one) was the most Haircut 100-like track on the new album. Who knows; maybe someday they’ll do a song as fun as “Love Plus One.” Not betting on it though.

  6. Sorry I didn’t blurb this in time; an easy 8, maybe a 9.

  7. Man, these guys just cannot pick a single. This is the Strokes-iest song on the album, and one of the weakest.

  8. Uh, since when are Hot Chip our New Order? I don’t even like New Order that much, but…no, different leagues.

    The comparisons of VW to Talking Heads have pretty much eroded any vague desire to hear Talking Heads I ever had.

  9. I don’t get the Hot Chip-Talking Heads analogies either.

  10. Vampire Weekend and Talking Heads don’t sound anything alike.

  11. Comparing VW to Talking Heads is somehow even more inaccurate and wrongheaded than the bout of “OMG! They like African music so they must sound like Graceland” talk that went around when the first album came out, especially since they’ve mostly sublimated said African influences.

  12. Rodney, when I heard “Cousins,” Talking Heads 77 is *exactly* what I thought: the too fast playing of a syncopated dance music but for jittery rather than thrash effect, the band self-consciously putting themselves at a distance from their musical language. Then again, I’ve only heard three Vampire Weekend tracks in my life, and maybe if I’d remembered what – say – Haircut 100 sound like that would have been my initial reference. It’s natural to initially compare the unfamiliar to the familiar, after all. Koenig’s vocals don’t remind me of Byrne’s, however; on “Cousins” they feel like Ray Davies’, a drawling standing aside has a lot of authority. On “Giving Up The Gun” the singing reminds me of, er, Paul Simon’s, a gentleness that can veer towards sweetness or despair, or sweet despair – except on “Giving Up The Gun” the voice just sounds too blank.

    I thought that Talking Heads got better later when they took the jitter out of the groove, left the fear up to the lead singer.

  13. a drawling standing aside THAT has a lot of authority, that is

  14. Alright, “Cousins” is the one song by them where the Heads comparison does kind of make sense, although I haven’t heard Talking Heads: 77 so I’m kinda talking out of my ass here. This song sure as hell doesn’t sound anything like them, though.

  15. Ian wasn’t necessarily saying they sound like TH–I read it as “equivalent social-etc. positions” more than anything.

  16. So maybe Vampire Weekend are our* Phoebe Snow, or Janis Ian (NJ-NY bred synthesizers of the Upper West Side).

    *Actually, since Janis Ian is less three years older than I am and Phoebe Snow less than two, I suppose that Phoebe Snow and Janis Ian are my Janis Ian and Phoebe Snow.

  17. Thanks to Matos for saying what I would have if I’d come around a few days earlier (Frank too).

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