It should be off-putting, but crazily enough, it’s not — maybe because they’re as dissatisfied with that life as we are with ours. As the title Contra suggests, it’s a CD about warring impulses, hypocrisy, opposites that fatally attract. I have to laugh at the world weariness of this bunch of 20-somethings – singing wistfully, in “Horchata,” “Years go by and hearts start to harden.” They long to escape from life’s pressures in the perky “Holiday” and more urgent “Run”; they look back wistfully over doomed love affairs in “Taxi Cab,” “Diplomat’s Son,” and “I Think U R A Contra.”
Ultimately, what really rescues this album is its tuneful pop hooks and killer rhythm section. Drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio are as crucial to this band’s dynamic as the more visible singer-songwriters Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmangli. No matter how layered its polyrhythms become, you never lose that essential beat groove, in most cases a contagiously bright and bouncy one. Even as “Taxi Cab” and “I Think U R a Contra” drift into more pensive territory (“I Think U R a Contra” even goes acoustic), they’re hardly ballads.
The melodic poppiness and the ironic lyrics seal the deal, in a way; they save Vampire Weekend from sounding like they take themselves too seriously — no small feat, when you’ve been toasted as the Next Hot Thing for two years running. The tracks are still taut and economical, with minimal intros and abbreviated riffs; even the few songs that run over four minutes (“Diplomat’s Son” lasts 6:01) are developed like movements in a symphony, rather than prolonged with mindless repetition. There’s a very good reason why this music appeals to the ADD generation.
Bottom line: You’ll come out humming these tunes. That was what grabbed me about the first album, and it’s even more true about the second one. It’s vintage Vampire Weekend — the same as ever, only more so.