REVIEW: Vampire Weekend - Contra


Vampire Weekend - Contra

Release Date: January 8th, 2010
Label: XL


“Bad art is more tragically beautiful than good art 'cause it documents human failure." -Tristan Reveur

"AY AY AY AY!” -Vampire Weekend

The first quote sums up how I feel about Vampire Weekend’s recently released Contra and the world that allowed it to reached number one on the charts. The human failure you see, is not restricted to the tunes of Vampire Weekend, but the millions of fans that consider this quality music worthy of money…in a recession no less. If you read our blog, or know me personally, then you understand I don’t hold back opinion. Before I rip into this album, I want to make it very clear that an opinion concerning the quality of art can’t be wrong. You might consider this to be a 10/10 masterpiece. That is not wrong. I might then consider you a damn fool. This as well, is not wrong. Now that we have that figured out, allow me to explain why this is the biggest piece of trash since ________ (Fill in with any of Eddie Murphy’s last three movies). By the way, the second quote reminds me why the world is falling apart.


“In December drinking horchata. I'd look psychotic in a balaclava. Winter's cold is too much to handle. Pincher crabs that pinch at your sandals.” Immediately I know from opening track, Horchata, that this is an everyman band that fills its wonderful songs with relatable narratives. We’ve all drank exotic beverages while wearing ski masks and hanging out on Hampton beaches in the winter. Wait a second now reader. I’m not saying that all art has to be relatable, but I haven’t seen this amount of celebration at ones own ego/elitism in art since Triumph Of The Will. Exaggerated example, yes. Point has been made. I get it Vampire Weekend. Your lyrics are abstract with their double meanings/definitions. What you must understand is the fact that abstraction in all art forms only works if the interpreter (in this case the listener) can evoke an emotion from that which doesn’t have an obvious answer.


This is what frustrates me the most folks. This album tries to have its Paul Simon Cake and eat it too. They tell these ‘complicated’ stories but highlight certain words to make the abstraction work against itself. Take the masterpiece California English. The clearest words of the song are: Private Schools, Alps, Contra, Contra, Contra, LA, Philly Cheese Stake, Toothbrush. What the hell guys? (Zach motions over his shoulder) Come on kids, let’s take a closer look at this:

California English:

Wouldn’t ever gag you with a spoon, my only true love
Never really heard you speak that way, it’s unworthy of…
Funny how that little college girl called language corrupt
Funny how the other private schools had no Hapa Club

Someone took a trip before you came to ski in the Alps
Your father moved across the country
Just to sunburn his scalp
Contra Costa, Contra Mundum, contradict what I say
Living like the French Connection, but we’ll die in LA


AY AY AY” – Guy in vintage polo shirt.

I said STOP. (silence). Now don’t lie to me or yourself. Without looking it up, how many of you know what a Hapa club is? That doesn’t piss me off half as much as the obvious lack of knowledge the band has of the great film the French Connection. None of the supporting narrative supports any comparison to the film…unless they are referring to the iconic chase scene, which I’m sure is the only part they saw…because if they did see/comprehend the film, then they would understand how that verse doesn’t make any damn sense in context with the rest of the lyrics.


Allow me to shift and hit the gears like Gone With The Wind (wrong movie reference brought to you by Vampire Weekend). I’ve had the Contra debate over and over. The main point: “Oh, come on, it’s fun.” You know what’s wrong with the argument? I’ve never tried it, but I bet crack is pretty fun for a while as well. Why doesn’t everyone saddle up and crack it up all day? Sometimes fun doesn’t justify consumption. This is why Lady Gaga, Ke(money sign)ha, and Owl City play over and over on the radio…dumb people think the music is fun.

AY AY AY AY”…I’m getting tired.

I feel like our indie generation is wasting one of the coolest moments of music history on the indulgence of buzz/wanting to fit in with a trend…which is the complete opposite of what indie is. When did indie get a dress code? Next time show up to a show wearing the most normal thing in your closet or jeans that feel comfortable to you…the music at the show remains the same. Why did he just bring up clothes? I brought up clothes because music is slowly moving away from the music and much more about the packaging of a band. Vampire Weekend might be fun, but they are manufactured fun. Take the amazing band Man Man. Those guys march by their own drum and come across completely sincere in their creation of a crazy brand/band.

I really moved away from talking about the album, but that’s ok…this is a social plea disguised as a review. If you made it this far…hold out your hand and I’ll hold it for this last paragraph. We are in the best time for discovering music. If you like Vampire Weekend, that’s fine. What I ask of you is to take breaks in between your Contra and just explore small blogs like WLFY and actually explore some of the smaller bands we feature. Go to concerts without texting on your damn iPhone. We need to revert back to seeing music as an art form and not something that is just fun. Fun is great, I own a Europe album…but the balance today is disgusting. Buy your Contra…it’s fun for you…but also try picking up a Jean Claude Vannier album. Film and music both need a renaissance and it starts with you.



  1. You made some valid points, but it still doesn't change the fact that I love Vampire Weekend.
    But hey, at least I'm not listening to that 'Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Ke$sha, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga shit they play on the radio. Seriously.

  2. Boo. You've been sour grapes the whole time, you haven't changed your tune at don't like them, I get it, so stop trying to just nuke everything they do.

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. Living in México, Horchata isn't exotic at all. Hence, the album goes down easier for me. :)

  5. That's it! I am not listening to this album!!


  6. "Without looking it up, how many of you know what a Hapa club is?"

    Without looking it up, How many people know what "Veckatimest" means?

    You don't like them, anyone who's glanced at your blog in the past month or so knows that. You make some valid points here, I won't deny that. And you have the right to believe what you want. But much of this fits in with most of the criticisms I see of VW in that the assumptions/conclusions/judgements made are as shallow, hypocritical, and aesthetic-minded as they claim the band is.

  7. Yes, some of the lyrics on this record are ridiculous, but why chastise other people for liking it? Not everyone has access to new music or torrents and frankly, I would have bought this record based on the strength of their last record. Thankfully, someone sent it to me first. It's more bad than good, but not the worst record I have heard this year.

    Also, to that other commenter, good point about Grizzly Bear.


  8. You just won’t stop will you. Srsly ,you are a fool. It’s fine if you don’t like them but nitpicking everything is just silly. Oh and how dare they use words we have to look up!!! I mean really?
    Please do not ever compare them to Lady Gaga she is awful.
    Do you listen to the actual music they play? It is gorgeous.

  9. Good point's but I'm still enjoying this album. First album from a UK indie label to hit number 1 in the US for 19 years which is a pretty good achievement check it out

  10. I doubt you have listened to this album at all. You're just so against this band that it blinds you.. Music is art but not all art needs to be so goddamn serious, theres plenty of room in here. People can listen to a lot of different bands and if you listen to VW it doesnt mean you can't listen to many many others.

  11. For those of you who are upset by this review/rant I refer you back to the first paragraph about opinion.

    Someone said: " why chastise other people for liking it? " It's my opinion that Contra is a bad album. If person A says it's an amazing album...our two opinions disagree with each happens. It's natural....and my opinion on Vampire Weekend is no more right or wrong than Lauren's. With that said...the review you read is MY opinion of the album and I obviously think it's a piece of shit.

    For those pointing out the Hapa definition line, I refer you the main point you must be missing where I clarify that they contradict the abstraction by hiding the "look up" words and clearly speaking certain other obvious buzz words (see California English). Veckatimist is right out in the open as an album name...Hapa isn't even clearly 70% of the vocals...trying to create manufactured depth to the music.

  12. I think what should happen is you writing the lyrics of the next Vampire Weekend. Then we would all have a very good time.

  13. I think you'd really appreciate L'Homme Run, Ezra's first band

  14. Music was about social communication well before it was considered an art.

    To that point, texting / sharing information during a show, in my mind, both returns music to its rawest purpose and advances the species.

    The singularity is near!

    (And Contra sucks. Princeton does this shtick better.)

  15. A pretentious music snob calling a pretentious music snob a pretentious music snob.

  16. You're totally wrong, fella. Sit down and relax.
    Not only are the lyrics that make a band, but also the melodies. Personally I think it's more important. And this album is full of catchy melodies.

  17. This piece was unbelievable. You may have stolen my exact thoughts and put them into greater statements. That, and you are much funnier than I am. Nonetheless, I completely agree with your words. Especially the last paragraph. That was beyond amazing.

    "We are in the best time for discovering music. If you like Vampire Weekend, that’s fine. What I ask of you is to take breaks in between your Contra and just explore small blogs like WLFY and actually explore some of the smaller bands we feature. Go to concerts without texting on your damn iPhone. We need to revert back to seeing music as an art form and not something that is just fun."

    It's what I've been trying to tell people all along.

    Very well done.

  18. Thanks for the kind words Krista. Hope you continue to read our little blog.

  19. You're grating and pretentious. You just don't like Vampire Weekend because they're ivy league and come across as too upper class for you. You probably love buzz bands up until they get "too much" buzz. You probably tug on your little dick to genuinely ethnic acts or artists whose image you don't quite understand. LOL you fucking loser.

  20. I find their music fun.. Does that make me dumb? Having an opinion about an album is one thing, but criticising the people who think it's fun is uncalled for. People like music for their own reasons. I don't always feel like listening to lyrics and making sense out of them, I just like to kick back sometimes and just listen to the sounds and how they sound nice with words, pretty random words in Vampire Weekend's case. That's all.

  21. Wow.

    People are allowed to have fun with music; it's actually considered a form of entertainment. Lighten up.

  22. I just wanted to say that I left a comment on here and it was deleted. You dish out the criticism, but can't take it I see. LOL you're such a loser.

    Go listen to some genuinely ethnic artists and pretend you're for real. Loser.

  23. Hello.

    I don't think that criticsm is something which we agree or disagree with. A critic's "opinion" -- and I wouldn't use the word "opinion" at all when it comes to criticism, but let's not discuss semantics --, as objective as it may be, is a personal judgement, and this personal thing can't be avoided.

    Thus, I'm not going to try to contradict what you said, I'd just like to understand your point of view.

    You said that their lyrics don't make any sense, but since when lyrics are supposed to have literal meaning? I mean, since when art as a whole is supposed to? What about, say, abstract art?

    I'm on behalf of genuine art too, and it hurts when I listen to people saying stuff like "my 8-year-old child could do that". But sometimes, more often than not when it comes to post-modernity, there's not a concrete meaning to grasp, I mean, it's not relatable whatsoever.

    Anyway, I'm not a Vampire Weekend fan, I've just heard two of their songs and I can't even say if I like them or not, it takes me time before I can say something I heard is stupid or not, but I somehow think you were too harsh on them! =]

    Nice blog, though.

  24. @Torres Really enjoyed your comment. I addressed the fact that lyrics can be abstract but must evoke emotion...for this reviewer the lyrics didn't make any sense and fail as abstraction...for me.

    @CJBM we can take your criticism, we encourage you to leave more comments. Is it wrong for us to call you a contra? Do you not want to be a contra? If so, sorry, I thought you wanted to be a contra.

  25. Z is right. People will always buy shitty music. Not to completely digress from your initial points but I have these same thoughts running through my head every time I head a new Killer's album (at least the lyrics were solid when they covered Joy Division), or hear people tell me what a great band Kings of Leon HAVE BECOME, or have to play a remix or a cover of a great song just to get someone to appreciate it. You're giving the masses too much credit. Of course most people don't know Hapa Club is, but I think the real leap is to assume that loyal Vdub listeners didn't jump to to look up balaclava or Horchata (Orange Bang is a much tastier beverage but I guess finagling that phrase into a track might take a little creative thought) . The fact is the majority of listeners out there (readers of this blog, well readers in general excluded) don't even hear lyrics. They're waking up feeling like P diddy with arms wide open waiting for a new Nickelback album to drop. WLFY isn't nuking anything, this album is a BOMB. It's the second release from a band who was in the right place at the right time. They had an image a few goods songs and a good looking lead singer with a unique voice. They hit it big with their first release and like most bands tried to capitalize on their success by rushing out with a follow up. If the talent was there then they would have done things right and crafted 12 great new songs rather than trying to bring their dead sound back to life with a quartet. And finally for those of you who might be uncertain of the point I'm trying to make I will leave you with the following...

    Well somebody told me
    You had a boyfriend
    Who looked like a girlfriend
    That I had in February of last year
    It's not confidential
    I've got potential
    A rushin', a rushin' around

    Happy Listening

  26. aaaamen. although i like Vampire Weekend.


    you are obviously an intelligent and well-put-together person, Zach, Z, whatever your name may be. but for the love of textual integrity, use your intelligence and writing skill for good!

    Vampire Weekend are musical AND lyrical geniuses.
    surely you can see their main literary device has been poetic license!
    they've written their songs heavy with inside jokes, personal anecdotes and, as you put it, 'elitist references that relate to no-one', because they can! because that's their literary right! because that's what any good writer does!

    and as for the fact that 70 percent of all the references in their songs have to Google'd or Wikipedia'd in order to be understood, that's a GOOD thing. that's how people learn. that's how people expand their cultural knowledge.
    are you trying to say that you've never heard a reference in a song/film/show/whatever and gone and Google'd it, and then used that exact same reference somewhere down the track?

    you're a good writer, man. and like i said, you seem very well put together. but come on, attack the real shit in current culture. the shit that is destroying and dumbing the minds of our generation!

    good writer though.

  28. I'd be willing to bet that the writer was determined to hate on Contra before he heard Contra... hows that for an open mind?

  29. People, people..Musically, Contra is atrocious. Lyrics are not even googled if the song is a piece of s.

    Looking things up is good for me? I'll leave that to Finnegan's Wake, buddy. And Ezra a genius because he happens to know a few books, can't sing live and references inside jokes?

    Einstein was a genius. Bowie was a genius. Vampire Weekend (2008) was more than good. Contra= shit.