Vampire Weekend Only God Was Above Us 1711591984 870x870 1

Vampire Weekend – Only God Was Above Us (Columbia Records)

Fuck the world” are the three words that open this, Vampire Weekend‘s fifth album. It’s apt then, that much of the sprightly pop that permeated 2019’s Father Of The Bride is largely absent.

Don’t get the impression, however, that Only God Was Above Us is, in any way, a ‘downbeat’ record. It’s not. It’s just more…sophisticated, I guess, for want of a better word.

You may well have already heard the magnificent ‘Classical‘, which is like a cross between the band’s own ‘M79‘ from the self titled debut and Aztec Camera at their commercial peak. It’s an incredible song, for my money one of the best since the turn of the millennium, which is only enhanced by the irresistible soft jazz interludes within.

The record is unmistakably Vampire Weekend, yet somehow the band always manage to put some kind of new twists on their songwriting, so while ‘Capricorn‘ is, in many ways, a return to the sound of 2013’s Modern Vampires Of The City, the little piano flourishes and gorgeous string arrangement really ramp up the emotive power throughout.

It is that subtle jazz influence that makes Only God Was Above Us such a compelling listen, along with some fascinating lyrics from Ezra Koenig – “The things we used to see / the sandhogs in the street / the chickens in her bedroom” he rather bafflingly sings on ‘Connect‘, over a backdrop of bendy basslines and lo-fi beats, before ‘Prep School Gangsters‘ comes in with guitars like The Cars‘ hit ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’, leading into a seductive, dreamy melody which, at this point, has already got me thinking that it’s unlikely to be beaten as an album of the year contender.

The woozy ‘The Surfer‘ is less instant, yet repeated plays reveal this particular track to be amongst the finest in the band’s catalogue, its searing string arrangement calling to mind the works of Leonard Bernstein or Burt Bacharach at times, while the urgent, restless ‘Gen X Cops‘ has an intro that makes you sit up and take notice like a sudden unexpected police siren, the remainder a wistful nod to the past and an expression of uneasiness at the direction the world is going in right now. “Each generation makes its own apology” might even be one of the greatest lyrics I’ve ever heard.

Mary Boone‘ is backed with operatic female vocals from the outset, a fairly pensive song but with THE most beautiful explosions of colour to break up the introspection. It’s hard to catch your breath here, and I’m now veering towards saying that Only God Was Above Us is Vampire Weekend’s greatest achievement. Given how many classics they’ve already put out, this is some accolade.

Pravda‘ is probably the most ‘old school’ VW composition, the pretty ‘world music’ style guitar motifs giving it that feel, and then we’re just left with ‘Hope‘ to round things off. At almost eight minutes long, this is the most ‘epic’ thing the group has put out to date, building and building, like the most amazing road trip filled with endless fascinating visions along the way, the journey leaving you both totally overwhelmed and utterly refreshed.

There are few things so good that you’re unsure whether to laugh or cry. But Only God Was Above Us is absolutely one of those things. An astounding piece of work.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.