January 14, 2010

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Vampire Weekend, Contra
XL Recordings, Jan. 12

The reason I smacked Merriweather Post Pavilion upside the head in the 2009 year-end rant wasn’t because I thought there wasn’t any beauty in it, I smacked it because, for all its artsy post-rave hypnotism, it obviously wouldn’t take much for some band to come along and sum the whole thing up, with noticeable improvements, in under three minutes. Quirky, snarky, cockeyed indie-weasels Vampire Weekend accomplish this in “California English” through the use of far more interesting percussive elements; a ratty, bratty vocal submitted by someone who obviously spent a lot of time picking his books off the floor after the jocks and heads and computer nerds slammed them out of his hands; and a wisely placed vocoder that allows one to appreciate a repetitive hook without six minutes of repetition. Like the trust-fund chick on the album cover, Polo logo prominently displayed on her shirt, “Horchata” is a fleetingly obtainable, hurried visit to paradise, a swoop into Panama before getting beamed into the middle of a spontaneous Bantu singalong. This album is a funhouse, a lot less outwardly Police-like than their debut but with about the same amount of Mozart; there’s a little cheese-techno, some Julian Lennon — anything goes and everything fits. Beware of newbie critics comparing this to the Clash owing to all the (completely manufactured, rather witty) hype — this isn’t even dreaming of being your generation’s Sandinista, although “I Think Ur a Contra” could be some sort of world/classical/twee yan to the yin of “Magnificent Seven.” AEric W. Saeger