Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires in the City [XL, 2013]
Think maybe this is overworked? Think maybe the hosannas are reflexive, generalized? I did, and then I didn't. So now think Paul Simon instead if you insist, admittedly a great album. But Sgt. Pepper is a truer precedent, to wit: if you're smart you say where's the rebop, only if you're smarter you quickly figure out that maybe sustaining groove and unfailing exuberance don't matter as much as you believed. Each verse/chorus/bridge/intro melody, each lyric straight or knotty, each sound effect playful or perverse (or both)--each is pleasurable in itself and aptly situated in the sturdy songs and tracks, so that the whole signifies without a hint of concept. And crucially, the boy-to-man themes you'd figure come with several twists I've noticed so far and more no doubt to come. One is simply a right-on credo: "Age is an honor--it's still not the truth." Another is how much time Ezra Koenig spends wrestling a Jahweh-like hard case. The Big Guy comes out on the short end of a fight song called "Unbelievers," and a DJ "spinning 'Israelites' into 'Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown'" gives Him a nasty turn. But Koenig claims no permanent victory. Too smart. Too much a man, too. A+