At what point does an excess of cleverness become too much? If sincerity was still a concern of contemporary alternative rock, then perhaps the self-titled debut from Vampire Weekend would be the answer to that question.
As if staging an emo backlash, this album tackles diverse topics such as architectural details ("Mansard Roof"), punctuation ("Oxford Comma") and New England life ("Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"). As if that wasn't smart enough, the music itself is an eclectic mix of post-punk, African and folk influences. It's enough to make you wonder if anyone is interested in simply picking up a guitar and singing about love, depression, politics or life anymore--which of course they are, but this album is apparently too high-minded for such seemingly simplistic exploration. They'd rather make like Kanye West and name drop Louis Vuitton on "Cape Cod..." Vampire Weekend may think they're skewering pretentiousness, but the irony backfires in this case, making the band the ones who are too pretentiously clever for their own good.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I just don't see much reason to like this album. Even "A-Punk," the alternative radio friendly track fails to grab me. "One (Blake's Got a New Face)" tries to be too many things at once. "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance" is bogged down by a poorly sung vocal and some sort of carnival-esque keyboard with a bunch of other instruments.
There are a few songs I do like though. "M79," a melodic opus complete with strings. "I Stand Corrected" has a good bass line and '60s groove. And I don't mind the keyboard and cello on "Walcott," since that is an interesting musical contrast. It rags on Cape Cod again though. Who knew Cape Cod was such an awful place?
Best: I Stand Corrected, M79, Walcott