Friday, May 10th, 2019

Vampire Weekend – This Life

The best show of the 90s, if you ask the membership of Change UK, but what about the song?


Taylor Alatorre: “This Life” has many of the ingredients of prior Vampire Weekend classics: a jaunty rhythm that wears its Graceland influence on its sleeve, a cut-and-paste repurposing of a rap chorus, lush instrumental filigrees, lyrics about personal or national decline or both. It adds up to less than the sum of these parts, as they seem uncertain of how exactly they’re supposed to fit together, like boys and girls on the opposite ends of a middle school gym. “Step” is an obvious comparison point; the Souls of Mischief interpolation slotted seamlessly into the lyrical framework, with its first line serving as a jumping-off point for a verse of twee self-deprecation. The “cheating on me/cheating on you” duality isn’t as thematically compelling, and to be frank, “Tonight” by iLoveMakonnen just isn’t as iconic as “Step to My Girl” or “Get Low,” so it doesn’t have the same intuitive impact. The song’s most rousing moment, a temporary doubling of the tempo in the chorus’ second half, is low-hanging songwriting fruit that doesn’t make up for all the TED Talk-esque bromides that are played way too straight to be ironic.

Kalani Leblanc: Vampire Weekend found something to divert the attention of the post-Rostam unbelievers: a jolly gee-golly-I’m-a-papa-now sound. The disposition was essential to all dude musicians past the age of experimenting in the 80s (Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Phil Collins when he wasn’t watching people drown, etc), and feels like an organic next step for a band best known as Ralph Lauren polo-wearing English majors. VW’s interpretation of jolly dad rock is something like Mac DeMarco’s early releases that mirrored classic dude rock without a twinge of seriousness and rolled around in its tackiness. Ezra names the offenses of “you’ve been cheating on me, I’ve been cheating on you,” only for it to be excused with “but I’ve been cheating through this life!”. That self-awareness makes the record listenable, as Ezra K must be fully aware of. This is the same smarmy self-awareness that asked “who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?”. To say VW has “reinvented” themselves is a stretch, as they haven’t matured as much as they’ve had a change of scenery. Ezra K can become a father, but he’ll never shed that hands-in-his-khakis stance he’s released half-hearted songs like these with. 

Tim de Reuse: Sonic clutter and endless Jimmy Buffett cheer and the rhyme of “California” against “before, yeah” and a couple of “hoo-hoo!”s thrown in there for good measure; so insufferably summery you could melt ice caps with it.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Ezra Koenig putting on “Touch of Grey” drag and quoting Makonnen in order to meditate on his own charmed life should be off-putting, and yet “This Life” is effortlessly charming throughout. Vampire Weekend’s success has always ridden on how the band perched on the borderline between irony and sincerity, aware of both their own ridiculousness and the utter seriousness that even ridiculous non-problems can become laden with from their own subjectivity. “This Life” feels like the unraveling of all of those prior Vampire Weekend songs, eschewing the high drama of a “Hannah Hunt” or “Giving Up the Gun” for a beautifully posed shrug on the way out.

Scott Mildenhall: Vampire Weekend’s finest moments have always been their bittersweet ones, reflections and reminiscences of times retreating in the rearview mirror. It needn’t even always be literal — it’s never been an automatic impediment to not have a clue what Ezra Koenig is going on about — nor past tense when it is. Though “This Life” is rooted in the present, it carries the burden of perspective that arises with the awareness that the retreat is happening, or already has, or could never even have been made, because the time you thought you had wasn’t what it was. Whatever the realisation, “oh Christ” could not be more appropriate.

Alfred Soto: Ezra Koenig doesn’t wanna live like this, but he doesn’t wanna die — he understands how these days intellectual curiosity depends on the financial means to satisfy it. So he pays for an iLoveMakonnen sample, strums a chordal pattern reminiscent of “Mrs. Robinson,” and hires Chromeo and Ariel Rechtshaid for an expansive, expensive polish. For the Koenig-led project known as “Vampire Weekend,” in which original members matter less than they used to, hybrid is both method and result. A shimmer of a single, “This Life” works, even if I tire of straight men discovering capital-m-Maturity with a vehemence that would astonish women, queer men, and every phylum in the animal kingdom.

Reader average: [5.33] (3 votes)

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One Response to “Vampire Weekend – This Life”

  1. “Dad rock” is definitely the best way to describe this – my dad heard it on Sirius XMU the other day and he instantly declared it his favorite Vampire Weekend song, even though the only two other VW songs he can name are “A-Punk” and “Ya Hey.”

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