Thanks to last year's widely circulated collection of demos, often referred to as the Blue CD-R, Vampire Weekend enjoy a much higher profile than other bands hawking a debut. On their first official album, these four Columbia grads don't stray far from what earned them their record deal: indie pop refracted through a distinctly urban lens. No studio window dressing. Not even a batch of new songs. Vampire Weekend offers only a finely tuned version of the band that emerged from obscurity only several months ago.
As with their demos, Vampire Weekend are at their best when feasting on the work of their peers. "A-Punk" remains an effective exercise in neo-garage swagger, if, say, the Strokes had recorded at 110th instead of Avenue A. Equally enthralling is the symphonic, Arcade Fire-esque "I Stand Corrected." Unfortunately, the band proves far less adept when it comes to mastering their historical antecedents. More overtly British fare, like "Oxford Comma" and "Blake," gets superficial treatment, the instrumentation marred by Ezra Koenig's jarringly Sting-like vocal phrasings.
As with many other debut records, there's considerable promise in these 12 tracks. Yet for some reason, perhaps owing to the band's earlier collection of demos, that assessment feels more disappointing than usual. Vampire Weekend offers some genuine excitement, but it's more rooted in what might be than in what actually is.
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