Vampire Weekend were a college/rock sensation that parlayed their limited campus success into a record deal, though they exhibit a far greater degree of artistic pretension than contemporaries like The Strokes, who were eager to shed the trappings of intellectualism and their patrician background, in favor of embracing rock at its most basic and primitive.
All the same, when Vampire Weekend are closely scrutinized, it's evident that at least a measure of their deeper aspirations are illusory, for despite the band's frequent attempts at elevated discourse through their lyrics (which lean towards pretentious and inane), there's a certain palpable innocence inherent to their music, a disarming youthful exuberance that clashes with their masquerade as a sophisticated ensemble.
There's nothing wrong with that aspect of the band's sound, but it's clearly not what Vampire Weekend are trying to achieve on this their full-length debut. At times, they seem to broadcast what their artistic agenda is, like when they overtly invoke Peter Gabriel in their lyrics - a case of inapt namedropping - as the former Genesis frontman fashioned rhythmically complex, meticulously-crafted world music married to rock, whereas Vampire Weekend produce music with a foundation of simple almost rudimentary catchy melodies, with some Afro-pop embellishments added to create a somewhat exotic flavor.
So it's difficult to take the World Music / Afro-pop side of the band terribly seriously. Even when they add a string section to their arrangements, it feels as if they're trying to insinuate an extra layer of depth to their work that simply isn't there. So whilst artistic ambition is always commendable, it's a pity the band aren't content with simply sticking to their strengths.
Vampire Weekend have an impressive facility for generating quality pop hooks, particularly in the context of highly catchy vocal melodies. From the irresistible (if profanity-laden) "Oxford Comma" to the stellar "I Stand Corrected", the band produce a plethora of eminently catchy pop songs, tracks that are uniformly enhanced by their intriguing Afro-pop overtones. All the same, it seems as if both the band and the critics alike exaggerate the importance of such world-beat influences, treating them as the core of the sound as opposed to added elements that ameliorate an already impressive product.
"Campus" offers perhaps the embodiment of the band's true skills - a pure and infectious pop song that doesn't seem to envision a higher calling for itself beyond entertaining the listener with catchy hooks. It's hardly the best track on the album, but nonetheless it amply demonstrates Vampire Weekend's mastery over basic pop. Most importantly though, the song displays that a lack of greater depth is nothing to be ashamed of, as intellectual pretensions are of no value without a strong and well-established template.
So Vampire Weekend
is an impressive album that may not be what the band had in mind, but is none the weaker for that. Beyond the attempts at erudition and experimentalism, the band have produced a work that is at heart a simple and charming pop album, no matter how many layers of Afro-pop or would-be eloquent philosophizing they've added to it.Rated:
by Reviewer: Evan Lublinski
Posted: Saturday 21st Apr 2018 9:17 AM
Script of the Bridge
is my first encounter with the music of The Chameleons, an occasion prompted by a number of positive online reviews I'd read about the album, but - having now had it on repeat for a good dozen or so listens - I can't say I'm in any hurry to check out more of the band's work.
On the strength of this album, my impression is that The Chameleons are just a copycat band, who'd simply jumped onto the post-punk / goth bandwagon, the latter most apparent in the rather dirge-like / sterile tone of their music, and amplified further by their exceedingly grim lyrical preoccupations.
Whilst the material is sorta OK within its own context of doom and gloom, absolutely every single track on Script of the Bridge
sounds like The Chameleons are emulating the sound of some other better-known and - when it comes to songwriting and musicianship - far more talented band, such that the entire album amounts to little more than an exercise in 'spot the references / influences'.
So then, it's a case of take your pick, deciding which tracks sound most like ... Echo & The Bunnymen / Joy Division / Psychedelic Furs / The Cure. It's dead easy actually, as every track readily slots into one of those sonic categories, yet none of them display anywhere near the same melodic inventiveness as the bands they emulate.
The only qualifier to all that is that lead vocalist Mark Burgess' monotone delivery, along with a total absence of humour / 'irony' / sparkle in the lyrics, makes him come across rather like a latter-day Gary Numan. So - what with Burgess' flat singing combined with the band's relentlessly gloomy sound - I'm inclined to file The Chameleons under what was otherwise the predominantly continental European scene of the time, known as 'cold wave', which emerged around the same time as The Chameleons - in the early-80's.
In contrast, the bands mentioned above (along with Gary Numan) were all up and running during the second half of the 70's, which to my mind only underscores further that this album's arrival in 1983 was just belated bandwagon jumping. What's more, it sounds like it too. Rated:
by Reviewer: bluemoon
Posted: Saturday 21st Apr 2018 9:23 PM