Vampire Weekend: “Gen-X Cops”

Some of the best Vampire Weekend songs are conversations with God. “Blacken the sky and sharpen the axe/Forever cursed to live unrelaxed,” Ezra Koenig sighs like the old millennial he is (he turns 40 this April), who, though still young, is old enough to say with some authority that he has seen it all. Koenig’s conclusion: It wasn’t built for me. Whatever “it” is.

Gen-X Cops”—written by Koenig and drummer Chris Tomson, and featuring Chris Baio on bass and fretwork from co-producer Ariel Rechtshaid—has the familiar tools of a Vampire Weekend song, yet its scattered arrangement of sputtering distortion and tiptoe piano has an off-ness that acts as a window into their fifth album, Only God Was Above Us. The album is said to be inspired (“haunted,” according to a press release) by 20th-century New York but was also recorded in Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo, all pinnacles of an increasingly fractured world. The Gen X imagery isn’t abundantly clear—are we just doomed to echo the sins of our elders as we age?—but our institutions trembling before what human nature has done to us is crystal. If Koenig is correct—that “each generation makes its own apology”—it sounds like he’s trying to write that apology to God: How silly for us to try and go against Your design.