Vampire Weekend – Only God Was Above Us

Fifth album from the hipster kings is a neat summation of where they've been, while still looking forward

Album Review by Lewis Wade | 04 Apr 2024
  • Vampire Weekend – Only God Was Above Us
Album title: Only God Was Above Us
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Label: Columbia
Release date: 5 Apr

'Fuck the world'. This is how Ezra Koenig opens Only God Was Above Us, on Ice Cream Piano, one of three songs that make direct references to war. Closer Hope appeals for compassion in the face of mounting rage and apathy. In the intervening half hour Vampire Weekend demonstrate once again why they're such an important band in the contemporary landscape, utilising the skills they've perfected in the past 20 years, while still pushing their sound forward.

They've streamlined the bloat of 2019's Father of the Bride to produce a slick set of ten songs that recall their debut in the use of jaunty electro B3 organ (cheekily-titled Classical) and orchestral flourishes (Ice Cream Piano). The latter also has the sort of lyrics that VW are revered and reviled for ('You talk of Serbians / Whisper Kosovar Albanians / The boy’s Romanian / Third-generation Transylvanian'). Pravda adds to their lineage of globe-trotting numbers (from Russia to Wisconsin in this case).

However, many songs have a wider, cinematic feel (Capricorn, The Surfer (with production from Rostam)) while Mary Boone makes use of a prominent Soul II Soul sample and choir. Connect is a wild ride taking in everything from bar-room piano trills, warped bass, cello and collagey digi-cuts before Koenig's vocals come in and out like ethereal warnings/elucidations. Hope is the longest VW song ever at eight minutes, but it never meanders despite its repetition. Instead it points toward the restless creativity that the band have never lacked, and that Only God Was Above Us demonstrates all too clearly.

This might still be a band too smart for their own good but, whether they're musing on our maddening inability to grow as society or vibing on a groovy bassline (this is the same song), Vampire Weekend simply don't miss.

Recommended: Ice Cream Piano, Hope, Mary Boone