Vam­pire Week­end... back with real bite!

Daily Mail - - It's Friday! - by Adrian Thrills

VAM­PIRE WEEK­END: Father Of The Bride (Columbia) Ver­dict: In­spired but scat­ter-gun

Vam­pire Week­end singer ezra koenig would once take um­brage at the chants of ‘ Grace­land! Grace­land!’ that greeted his new York band when­ever they played songs from their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum live.

He was flat­tered by the com­par­isons with paul Si­mon’s 1986 mas­ter­piece, but felt they also sug­gested that his own songs lacked orig­i­nal­ity.

But Vam­pire Week­end have never had nar­row artis­tic hori­zons. Hav­ing formed in 2002 at man­hat­tan’s Columbia Uni­ver­sity, where band mem­bers stud­ied english, rus­sian, mu­sic and eco­nomics, they em­bel­lished any un­in­tended paul Si­mon ref­er­ences with cham­ber strings and in­die­rock gui­tars. They were ar­tis­ti­cally am­bi­tious back then; and even more so now.

Back af­ter a six-year break in which koenig has pro­duced a track for Bey­oncé, worked with Beni­nese star angélique kidjo and be­come a dad for the first time, the band are bolder than ever on their fourth al­bum.

at 18 tracks, Father Of The Bride, out to­day, is a sprawl­ing and some­times scat­ter-gun af­fair, but it’s lit­tered with sparks of in­spi­ra­tion.

Vam­pire Week­end made their name with quizzi­cal, clever- clever songs about man­hat­tan bus routes and the rules of english gram­mar, but they are now play­ing it straight. The archly-raised eye­brows of a book­ish bunch fresh out of an ivy League col­lege have given way to a more re­laxed ap­proach. ‘i take my­self too se­ri­ous,’ says koenig on the fla­menco- tinged dance track Sym­pa­thy . . . ‘it’s not that se­ri­ous.’

THiSis their first record since founder mem­ber ros­tam Bat­man­glij left in 2016, re­duc­ing the band to a trio. ros­tam has since found main­stream pop suc­cess as a song­writer for Char­lie XCX and Carly rae Jepsen, but he’s back as co-pro­ducer here.

He leads an im­pres­sive sup­port cast that in­cludes danielle Haim ( of sib­ling trio Haim) and mark ron­son.

koenig’s three duets with Haim are high points. Hold You now opens the al­bum with an am­bi­tious com­bi­na­tion of amer­i­can folk melody and a choral sam­ple from Ger­man film com­poser Hans

Zim­mer’s score for The Thin red Line. mar­ried in a Gold rush is a bitterswee­t, he- said, she- said piece wor­thy of nancy Si­na­tra and Lee Ha­zle­wood or, more re­cently, paul Heaton and Jac­qui ab­bott.

an­other folk duet, We Be­long To­gether, sug­gests ezra and danielle’s part­ner­ship might even work over an en­tire al­bum. That’s one for the fu­ture.

There are other en­tic­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions here. This Life, co-writ­ten with koenig’s fel­low new Yorker ron­son, is a sprightly pop track that leans on Van mor­ri­son’s Brown eyed Girl. an­other guest — Cal­i­for­nian soul-funk gui­tarist Steve Lacy — is a reve­la­tion on the quirky Flower moon and re­cent sin­gle Sun­flower.

at an hour long, this is essen­tially a dou­ble al­bum. and, while its tracks ini­tially flow with pleas­ing flu­ency, am­bi­tion gets the bet­ter of the band as the record be­comes a su­per­mar­ket trol­ley- dash be­tween styles. my mis­take is an odd, lounge-jazz in­ter­lude; Stranger is slight and throw­away.

But koenig’s song­writ­ing has be­come more di­rect, more per­sonal. He wryly re­flects on how one’s per­spec­tive, if not life’s chal­lenges, change with age on Har­mony Hall.

‘Thought i was free from all that ques­tion­ing, but ev­ery time a prob­lem ends, an­other one be­gins,’ he sighs.

and, on psychedeli­c rocker How Long, he of­fers a with­er­ing aside on the band’s on­go­ing rise: ‘ Get­ting to the top wasn’t sup­posed to be that hard.’

They’ve taken their time — and some ju­di­cious ed­its wouldn’t go amiss — but they are get­ting there in style.

Vam­pire Week­end play the Big Week­end, mid­dles­brough, on may 25 and fur­ther UK fes­ti­val dates, in­clud­ing Glas­ton­bury, in June (vam­pire­week­end.com).

Ezra Koenig: Chill­ing out

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