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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Review: “Father of the Bride”

Did Vampire Weekend exchange their boating shoes for sneakers?

I’ll skip the over-dramatic fangirl monologue for the time being. My continuous admiration for Vampire Weekend was (maybe embarrassingly) established in my preview of the altered band’s newest album “Father of the Bride.” With the full 18-track album released on May 3, many of my predictions seem to have come to fruition — Vampire Weekend has flipped themselves on their own heads, critical of themselves and the world we share with them. However, they stick to their roots; the album is not without their classic twists and turns, well-played innuendos to make the listener think without realizing it. With “Father of the Bride,” Vampire Weekend gives an ode to their previous style and celebrates what is to come.

In complete contrast to the darker keys found in “Modern Vampires of the City,” “Father of the Bride” is playful and peppy, even whimsical at times. A summer-drive-with-the-windows-down kind of sound. “Harmony Hall,” one of the album’s first released singles, kicks off the motif. The guitar riff is smooth, infectious — so much so that Vampire Weekend has released a two-hour loop of the instrumentals. What I once worried would foreshadow a simple sounding album has become the earworm of listening pleasure, displaying the continued musical mastery and development of the band. They no longer have to rely on the complexity that gained them fame, but simply well-composed music worthy of praise. They even tap into some autotune on “Flower Moon.”

They haven’t forgotten their roots totally, however. “Flower Moon” as well as “Sympathy” rests on international, Latin beats; “Sunflower” has a hip-hop-esque rhythm mixed with the faint hints of their classic Victorian sound found in their older content like “Run” from “Contra.” Perhaps the familiar juxtapositions are what drew me to these songs initially, but Vampire Weekend hasn’t failed to make fun of themselves in the process. The music video for “Sunflower” is a prime example. While captivating to watch, the contorting visuals could be seen as overdoing it. Shot at Zabar’s, a classic bagel shop in New York, they are possibly turning people off. In the words of my older brother, a Manhattan resident, “#wegetit #yourefromNYC.”  

That’s the point. “Unbearably White” confronts this directly. A similar witty use of diction found in “Diane Young” jokes at the whiteness rooted in Vampire Weekend. Whether or not they should be using these sounds from different cultures is too large of a discussion to be had here, but Vampire Weekend minimally recognizes that their privilege could have been their earlier shortcomings and annoyance: “Could’ve been smart, we’re just unbearably bright.” They further criticize it with “Rich Man:” “But if ten million dollars is all that you got / You won’t be the one.”

Many of the album’s songs are thus reminiscent of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll. Drawing on Grateful Dead for inspiration, “This Life” is a spitting image of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” Packaged in their upbeat tempos are our collective fears for the future: “Something’s happening in the country / and the government is to blame” in “Married in the Gold Rush,” “I don’t wanna live like this / but I don’t wanna die” in “Harmony Hall,” “This life in all its suffering / Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?” in “This Life.”  Vampire Weekend removed themselves from the musical and intellectual isolation of New York City and gravitated toward larger concepts and the country as a whole: the current generation’s anxiety, fear of environmental destruction and government failure. They may not be the best voices (you can’t rid yourself of your privilege after all), but they are living the collective experience too.

Vampire Weekend turns to themes of marriage and romanticism — love serving as the light in dark times. Ezra Koenig may be feeling these sentiments strongly nowadays, living in Los Angeles with partner Rashida Jones and a newborn baby. The irony of their progressive calling for environmental action and responsibility from the government is the use of traditional marriage tropes in expressing love, like the significance of the father of the bride.

While the album has been on repeat, I don’t believe “Father of the Bride” is Vampire Weekend’s strongest album. Nonetheless, it proves the band adaptable, and takes them out of the mold of merely the Ivy League educated indie-rock band. We are granted the opportunity to see a band in their growing pains, constantly developing and toying with their sounds and themes; a band worth waiting another six years for.

Written By: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org


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