Last summer, [artist id="2584573"]Vampire Weekend[/artist] premiered the video for a sharp, single-take kind of thing, very much indebted to the films of Wes Anderson and the tracking shot.
Directed by Richard Ayoade, “Comma” was a slick-looking, precisely timed thing, full of actors hitting their marks and strategically placed set pieces (one wonders how many times they had to rehearse the thing), the kind of undertaking that’s a joy to see actually pulled off. Just ask Lil Wayne, who was so in awe of the video backstage at “FNMTV” (where it premiered, on the same show Wayne performed “A Milli”) that he swore to one day make a single-take clip of his own. To the best of my knowledge, we’re still waiting for that video, but that’s really beside the point.
Or maybe not. Because on Thursday (November 19), Vampire Weekend premiered the video for the first single from their Contra album, which hits stores early next year. And once again, they’re relying on the tracking shot. Exclusively.
But there’s a difference between the clips, and it lies in the execution. Unlike its predecessor, “Cousins” — directed by Garth Jennings (half of famed Brit tandem Hammer & Tongs, who have done excellent clips like Blur’s “Coffee & Tea” and Supergrass’ “Pumping on Your Stereo”) — is a gleefully choppy, slightly amateurish thing, full of quick cuts and goofy confetti cannons. No attempt is made to make it seamless or smooth. Rather, we see Vampire Weekend repeatedly zooming down an NYC alleyway (pity the poor dolly grip), potholes and all, while stuff pops and booms around them.
It matches the loosey-goosey feel of the song itself, all drum rolls and interlocking staccato guitars and — hey, why not! — some bells too (certainly this is what frontman Ezra Koenig was talking about when he referred to the “extremes of vibe” on the new album). There’s an oddly Talking Heads-esque quality to the clip — something about the way they delight in pulling back the curtain (no attempt is made to hide the dolly tracks) or maybe the bargain-bin special effects (the aforementioned confetti cannons, Koenig’s clunky fake arm). And let’s not forget the low-budget homage to the famous “morphing” sequence in Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video, here accomplished with just a series of black turtlenecks and some paper masks.
In short, the video is a blast — warts and all.
Really, this is creativity personified: making the most with the least and not being ashamed of that fact. We all know Vampire Weekend as children of privilege and private schools, but maybe with “Cousins” — and Contra, for that matter — they’re undergoing some seismic shift: You can do it over and over again, until everything’s perfect, or you can just do it yourself. Sometimes, that’s the better solution.