One of the things not to like about Vampire Weekend, other than their cloying preppiness, Ezra Koenig’s ingratiating voice, the bizarre cultural appropriation that never gets called out and the Upper West Side archness of the lyrics, is the fact they rarely put more than two decent songs on an album.
That’s true right back to their very first: does anyone remember any song other than ‘Oxford Comma’ (their best by a mile) and ‘A-Punk’? This latest is a double album, so, faithfully sticking to the template, you get four decent songs. Much of it, actually, is pleasant in a slightly insipid Paul Simon kinda way. Very little offends, the hideous clunker ‘Sunflower’ aside. Shorn of his chief collaborator, Rostam Batmanglij, Koenig has broadened his horizons a little and so the shallow take on African music has been largely replaced by a shallow take on country music — a big mistake, except on ‘Married In a Goldrush’ where the prettiness of the tune eclipses the anodyne playing. ‘My Mistake’ has a sweet tune, too, and stapled-on terribly contemporary production effects by the LA producer DJ Dahi. ‘Unbearably White’ also carries you along for a while until a certain ennui, a wish to go to sleep, and perhaps never wake, sets in.
Elsewhere there are exquisitely produced and cheerfully strummed acoustic guitars. The charming but winsome ‘We Belong Together’ has the line ‘We go together like Keats and Yeats’. It was at that moment, for reasons I’m not sure I understand, that I took the CD from the player and sent it gliding like a frisbee into the nettles beside our vegetable patch from where, hopefully, it will be appropriated by a kleptomaniac magpie.