Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
They say that good things take time, but in this instance the long wait for a follow up to Modern Vampires of the City hasn’t resulted in a record worth waiting for. Father of the Bride is simply a great big mess, a sprawling collection of half-baked ideas. Credit where it’s due, I’m a great admirer of bands that experiment and expand their sound, and Vampire Weekend have certainly made a go of it, but the end result leaves a lot to be desired. Most of its 18 tracks feel like demos, just short little snippets of ideas that never get developed. In these already short songs you find odd elements of the arrangements, or some brief segment separate from the rest of the track, that does enough to stand out, but not enough to lead anywhere that would make the song noteworthy.
It’s like some school project that they had all the time in the world to do but ended up leaving to the last minute, with most of their good ideas falling by the wayside as it is all lackadaisically thrown together with a clip-art globe stuck on. It has its promising moments, like the strings in ‘Rich Man’, the sombre piano sections in ‘My Mistake’, or the interesting guitar tone in ‘2021’, but they just end up getting lost in the confusion of it all. An album should consist of songs that come together to paint a bigger picture, but FOTB is more like several pictures cut into jigsaw pieces and jumbled up in a box.
Thankfully in the few instances where the pieces fit together, and good ideas are given room to breathe and grow, you find some of the best songs that Ezra and co have ever written. ‘Stranger’ pulls together a lot of different elements; harmonies, brass, summery riffs and a strong rhythm section, in a way that feels natural while still exploring the diverse sound that they crave. ‘Harmony Hall’ opens with a simply gorgeous acoustic riff before diving headfirst into bigger and bolder territory that would feel right at home on Screamadelica. It also boasts the album’s most memorable lyricism and a wonderfully elegant baroque piano breakdown. But it is the feel-good anthem that is ‘This Life’ that most deserves a spot amongst their greatest work. The guitar aglow with all the joys of summer, the hooks so shamelessly addictive, it feels like the very best of the Grateful Dead reimagined for a new generation.
Listening to Father of the Bride is like panning for gold as you find yourself searching for those few flashes of brilliance. They’re definitely there, it’s certainly worth the time, and you will come away feeling enriched. But for a band with their track record you would expect brilliant tracks to be the norm, not the exception.