Vampire Weekend - Contra

2010-01-22 17:12

Few indie rock bands would have the imagination (or iPod playlist, for that matter) to cocktail a sample straight out of third world rap princess M.I.A.'s underwear drawer and nerdy troubadour Jonathan Richman's naïf balladeer strum 'n hum spiel (cf. Something About Mary) into a lovers rock reggae genre surf like "Diplomat's Son". Even fewer would fantasise about hearing Pete Doherty's Babyshambles kick out a hyperactively dirty pretty mariachi punk caper such as first single "Cousins".

And then there's that album title: Contra. Yep, a reference to the same fascist para-military organisations that fought in opposition to the Marxist Sandinistas in late 1970s Nicaragua. Yep, the same Sandanista! that pioneering British punks The Clash gave a shout out in their iconic 1980 triple album rollercoaster ride of reggae rockabilly, dub, folk, jazz and rhythm 'n blues. And yep, as hardcore gamers will undoubtedly know, Contra is also a reference to that 80s Nintendo shoot em up arcade game, reportedly much loved by VW lead singer Ezra Koenig when he was a kid.

Relax. It's not all just some Ivy League exercise in meta-textual college rock conceit. The American indie rock hipsters' much publicised obsession with Paul Simon's Graceland on their self-titled debut has now matured into a malleable indie world beat blueprint that takes in moody micro piano pop ("Taxi Cab"), trans Atlantic Afro-pop renanimations ("White Sky") and a trippy, dippy dance floor fusion of breathlessly punky funky disco patents and a Brit pop bliss that sounds sort of like the Stone Roses jamming with Bow Wow Wow ("Giving Up the Gun").
If the dulcet Simon & Garfunkel harmonies underpinning the Casio-toned marimba rhythms and skinny disco synth-bass of "Horchata" don't have you grinning like an idiot, then the animated Afro-popped indie bounce of "California English" definitely will.

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