Vampire Weekend Return To Their “Upper West Side Soweto” Roots With Contra

Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend’s new album Contra brings back a torrent of memories for me. This quartet from New York City was not even born during the heyday of the Boston/NYC punk scene. Still they seem to capture an important lost era of punk music.

The band has a cool ska feel to them; with that in mind I wouldn’t call them a ska band. They are a rock band. The band themselves describe themselves as “Upper West Side Soweto” whatever the hell that is.

What is missing from most post punk acts these days is simple concept that punk is an attitude not a style of music. Vampire Weekend get it, this is not pop punk for tweens. Vampire Weekend is the real deal. Contra brings me back to 1986 and I am back at The Rathskeller in Boston’s Kenmore Square.


Contra opens with the strangely metered “California English”. This song has some great keyboards and sets the mood for the whole disk. “Giving Up The Gun” is another stand out on the disk. This tune is homage to a guitarist whose glory days have passed. The song’s lyrics hit home for this old ass guitar player.

“I heard you play guitar down at a seedy bar where skinheads used to fight.  Your Tokugawa smile and your garbage style used to save the night. You felt the coming wave, told me we’d all be brave, you said you wouldn’t flinch. But in the years that passed since I saw you last, you haven’t moved an inch”

Yes, I saw some Skinhead fights at The Rathskeller back in the day. I also saw a lot of bands that sound like Vampire Weekend. The key thing is Vampire Weekend isn’t trying to sound like these bands they have their own vibe. I do hear a bit of The Clash in the underlying influences but seriously is that a bad thing?

The band is made of lead vocalist Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij keyboards and guitar, Chris Tomson drums and Chris Baio on the bass guitar. Koenig also helps out with the guitar duties. I am not sure which guitarist is doing the guitar runs on the first single “Cousins” but the guitar work is awesome.

The musicianship all over this album is well above par as is the writing. There isn’t a bad song on the disk I love this CD. Who would have known: I guess I am a fan of “Upper West Side Soweto”.  Making this a very easy disk to review.