After six years away Vampire Weekend are back. In those intervening years they’ve lost a founding member and songwriter (Rostam), signed a major-label deal, and developed a worrying penchant for wearing socks and sandals and, it seems, making double albums. So here is Father of The Bride (sadly not a Steve Martin concept album), finely treading its sandalled feet along the line between corny and cool.
For a band constantly criticised for being overly arch, they’ve always sounded joyfully unpretentious. And so it remains. ’Harmony Hall’ mixes a 90s baggy vibe and wonderfully uncool piano groove to make maybe the single of the year. There’s also a song knowingly called ‘Unbearably White’ (insert side-eye emoji). This is a looser, warmer sound than before and gloriously unfashionable touchstones are everywhere. Sometimes that works, like on opener ‘Hold You Now’ which mixes a campfire strum with Danielle Haim and a choral sample from the Hans Zimmer Thin Red Line score, and ‘We Belong Together’ and ‘This Life’ (co-written by Mark Ronson) where Ezra sounds more like Paul Simon than he ever has before. But songs like ‘Sunflower’ show prog should never come back into fashion and it seems to drag in the final stretch. The result is a fantastically all over the place 18 song record that could have been a brilliant 12 track one. Watch out, we’ll all be wearing sandals soon.
Photo by Monika Mogi.