Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they say, which probably explains the fever pitch of excitement that surrounds the return of Vampire Weekend.
The Stateside kings of breezy, bright indie, it’s been an impossibly long time since their last album, ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’. Six years, in fact. In the period in-between, they’ve lost a member (though the fantastically talented Rostam Batmanglij does still contribute), offered up countless updates (for a while, the album was titled ‘Mitsubishi Macchiato’) and built up an almost unbearable level of expectation. It’s a fire frontman Ezra Koenig hasn’t been afraid to stoke, either, from a percentage-based count of the record’s completeness to the acronym tease of its title over the final few weeks. Still, good things come to those who wait, right?
Truth is, ‘Father of the Bride’ is both exactly as expected, and also completely different to anything predicted. A record drenched in a previously teased ‘spring-time’ vibe, it’s never less than crispy fresh, but while Vampire Weekend’s trademark peppiness is always present, it’s never afraid to head off in new, previously untested directions. ‘My Mistake’ skips around between ideas, occasionally losing conventional form all-together, while ‘Married In The Hold Rush’ is something straight out of an indie Star Is Born - a storming country-tinged duet with Danielle Haim that’s sure to be a favourite across both bands’ not inconsiderable congregations. In fact, it’s hard to find anything that feels slavish to an old template of mid-00s indie rock past.
Take ‘Sympathy’; a whip-smart stomp, it struts with a Latin rhythm - all finger clicks and bravado - but matches that up with choral stabs as sharp as a lime on the side of a spicy dish. Or ‘Sunflower’ - the do-be-do-be-do song that arrived in one of the record’s preview drops. Neither feels like it’s been lifted from a textbook - both feel like something altogether new.
That’s not to say ‘Father of the Bride’ is a short, sharp shock or a radical change of direction. This isn’t Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ in boating shoes. It’s something new, but also something familiar. Never experimental for the sake of it, instead it’s a positive meeting place of new ideas - an evolution bordering on a revolution. If anything, it’s the sound of a band who have continued to progress in the time in-between albums, rather than standing still, letting the sands of father time bury them alive. Vampire Weekend still have our attention. Just don’t keep us waiting so long next time, eh?