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Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride Music Album Reviews

Vampire Weekend return with a shaggy, sprawling double album all about rebirth, contentment, and the reclamation of light.
From the beginning, Vampire Weekend were winners: charming, relatively lighthearted; Columbia students one year, festival headliners the next. They had cute sweaters and smart jokes; they wrote with wit and curiosity about the tapestry of privileged life; they carried themselves with an almost infuriating sparkle. But they were also manic, weird, and provocatively cross-cultural, mixing up digital dancehall and string sections, Latin punk and raga in ways that didn’t quite fit. And despite their superficial politeness, there was something deeply antagonistic about them, the vestigial bite of suburban kids who grew up loving punk and hardcore but never quite felt entitled to its anger, the indie-rock band bent on breaking up the monopoly rock held over guitar-based music.

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Show Me the Body - Dog Whistle Music Album Reviews

The hardcore trio grapples with the ongoing death of their NYC home in their most cohesive work to date.

In 2015, Show Me the Body frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt told The Guardian that he was struggling to write love songs. “The city is dying” he said of his native New York, outlining the institutional and economic blows NYC residents deflect daily just to survive—displacement, aggressive policing, corporate homogenization. On Show Me the Body’s new album Dog Whistle, the hardcore trio grapple with the same conundrum, but while digging through the rubble of razed local businesses is disheartening work, Show Me the Body would sift through no other city’s debris. Dog Whistle, like the band’s previous records Corpus I and Body War, is quick to state the failings of the five boroughs—but it also aims to fortify the underground community in which it was created. As a result, the band have produced their most cohesive work to date, however one that struggles to maintain interest and energy throughout its 30-minute runtime.


Dog Whistle functions best when Show Me the Body are able to capture the vitality of their live sets, as well as the sheer noisiness of New York itself. “Not for Love” is punctuated by throbs of distortion that sound like a jackhammer busting up concrete. Here, Pratt’s vocal chords are ripped raw, and they dispatch quick, incisive lyrics that sting long after the cut’s been made. Pratt’s view of his home turf is as uplifting as it is doomed: In one snarled breath, he offers a succinct manifesto on drudgery: “Fuck and work if you’re lucky.” In another, he holds his community to a higher standard: “Let’s do it right/Let's do it for love.”

“Madonna Rocket” is the most vigorous and traditionally punk song on the album, and its momentum alone makes it the most memorable. It’s easy to see how this track would translate into the band’s gigs; a pit of tangled limbs churning in front of the stage. Show Me the Body excel when they allow their music to whip itself into a frenzy like this, and co-producers Gabriel Millman and Chris Coady (who’s worked with Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beach House) deserve some credit for letting the LP stay stained and frayed at the edges. But the album screeches to a halt during a couple of spoken word interludes that feel forced and unnecessary. The 45-second “Animal in a Dream” features Pratt reciting a poem that feels generic and half-finished when compared with his bright, insightful discourse in interviews, or the venom he spits onstage. The static sizzling in the background of the track is arguably more intriguing than his words, and would be just as effective as a transitional element on the record.

Structurally, “Camp Orchestra” is Dog Whistle’s most interesting song, creeping in with rigid bass and banjo plucks that sound siphoned from an early Genesis tune, before propelling into a furious headbanger that borrows as much from metal as it does punk and prog rock.

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Show Me the Body’s comfort experimenting with different genres may stem from the fact that their Corpus collective is home to artists across mediums and styles—it might also be a result of inhabiting the city that birthed punk, hip-hop, and so many other creative movements. But what imbues “Camp Orchestra” with added weight is the trip that inspired it. While recently on tour in Poland, Pratt and his bandmates Harlan Steed and Noah Cohen-Corbett—all of whom are Jewish—visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, and were especially haunted by a phrase on the entrance gate: “Work Sets You Free.” Pratt was thinking of a specific kind of work when he wrote “Camp Orchestra,” which is named after the prisoners who were forced to perform music for Nazi officers, as well as for fellow captives while they were marched to and from labor. Pratt screams over a squall of feedback: “No work will set you free to work,” a notion that could easily be applied to the inescapable hustle that is as much a part of NYC as its artistic milestones.

New York is a complicated place to call home. This is one way to sum up Show Me the Body’s mission statement. They feel constantly at odds with the city’s imposing new structures, and their disappearing locales. In the midst of losing members of their community, they strive to bring their found family closer together. Their songs embody a ceaseless push and pull, but unfortunately don't always epitomize the fervor of their lives outside of the music. New York is a place that relentlessly demands more from you—but I imagine Show Me the Body will push even harder in years to come.



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