I bought the vinyl version because I liked the cover and it’s better appreciated in that format.
It came with a poster of the cover (bonus!) and a cool record sleeve, the kind where there is a scratch-free plastic lining that protects the grooves. It was almost as if the makers of this record-Vampire Weekend’s third long player, Modern Vampires Of The City-knew that it was meant for a major piece of work.
True to its packaging, I had to walk away from the album for a bit after side one finished with “Hannah Hunt.” Not because I had something else to do or because the record created a passive moment where I didn’t feel like getting up off of my ass to flip the record over.
I walked away because I needed to savor what is the most perfectly executed (proper) side that I have heard in quite some time.
And guess what? Side two is just as flawless.
Modern Vampires Of The City finds Vampire Weekend obsessing over time, and for good reason: the band members are approaching 30 now, and everyone knows that you are hunted and killed when you turn 33 and a third.
Hell, I didn’t start obsessing about death until I was at least 40, so I guess that makes V.W. “old souls.”
“I want to know, does it bother you?” Ezra Koenig asks on “Don’t Lie,” “The low click of a ticking clock.” Instinctively, he admits to his fellow twenty-something that “there’s a lifetime right in front of you,” but with each subsequent verse the outlook isn’t as rosy.
Life is fleeting, and because of this, the band has already delivered a modern classic. The origins of this record may have been intended to address the remaining critics who felt the band’s fey charms are the product of spoiled opportunities instead of legitimate talent, but the end result far exceeds a mere exclamation point against their previous work. Instead, Modern Vampires takes a rightful place next to such records as Sgt. Pepper’s, Fear Of Music and Paul’s Boutique.
Remember, I flat-out panned this band’s first record-and I stand behind my original complaints. It wasn’t until the second record before I became converted, but trust me, nothing on that record will prepare you for how far this band has come in such a short amount of time.
Modern Vampires is very much a product of its moment, incorporating strange and new sounds from around the world in a package of undeniable pop music that is unlike anything else in your collection right now.
By “pop music,” I mean this is a record that you’ll be returning to repeatedly, and because its songs are so infectious, it will be the record your children will adopt as their own, repeating the cycle. I have to confess that much of my enthusiasm for this record is to consider the longevity of it.
Part of the record’s prolonged exposure is because of its analog warmth, regardless of the format. While utilizing various modern trickery (pitch shifting vocals, kinetic editing, punched-in transitions), there’s nothing about this record that sounds like it’s the product of a hard drive. It’s an el pee, in every sense of the word, and because of that intentional attention to sequences and the album’s current state of irrelevance, you have to wonder if this band is paying tribute to the format or signaling its last breaths.
Because finality is all around Modern Vampires and Koenig’s words-regardless of how fragmented and cryptic they are at points-may prove to be incredibly prophetic. Throughout the record’s length you can catch moments of our world’s economic struggle, endless conflict and dwindling faith. You can also find the obligatory glue that we all need while navigating those heavy topics: love. While it may not always provide the joy we all would want, its lure is enough to make life more tolerable.
But it’s the performances themselves that are surprisingly uplifting. Virtually every emotion is covered within the arrangements of Modern Vampires and each one is a celebration of life even when the record’s primary theme is that of mortality.
Even the cover ends up being more complex than its visual beauty suggests. It’s a toxic snapshot where over 150 people died as the result of the smog that seems to envelope American’s largest city.
And like that photograph of the city that Vampire Weekend calls home, the band has taken a similar snapshot of their everyday dread and turned it into an amazing thing of beauty that will last longer than the time we all have left to enjoy it.