The thing about today’s entry is that, I almost feel like I shouldn’t blog about them. They certainly don’t need any help from me in getting publicity. Sure they’re not storming the top 40 charts, but their debut album has been covered by the masses of media out there and it’s been almost uniformly praised. In fact, the Columbia-graduating, Brooklyn-dwelling band are probably in danger of being seriously over-hyped.
But, the truth remains that it’s been an awful long time since I’ve heard an album that is so listenable. Not a track that needs to be skipped. Nor have I seen an American act that is so embraced by other nations. While everyone is hating on us for our politics and pollution, at least we have Vampire Weekend to fix our public relations from a pop culture standpoint.
19. Vampire Weekend
The name ‘Vampire Weekend ‘comes from an amateur film that the lead singer, Ezra Koenig made. It was about about him fighting off vampires in masks. So, yeah, I’m sure it was great. Here is the trailer as found on youtube:
I think it actually looks like what the 10 year-olds put together in “Son of Rambow”. Not that that’s a bad thing.
The album has been compared to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” but I don’t think it means to be so serious as that. The African influence is right on, however. They’re often labeled as purveyors of ‘Afropop’, but they seem to prefer the label of ‘Kwassa Kwassa’, I think. Kwassa Kwassa is a fast paced version of an African rumba called ‘soukous’. I guess that kind of makes it dance hall soukous.
Besides the obvious African influences they credit Squeeze and Elvis Costello for paving the way to their sound. That, to me, seems like a fair analysis of who they swipe from.
Vampire Weekend is also a band that makes preppy cool. For me, that is a gigantic feat. Typically, when I think of preppy guys, I think of all the villains from the John Hughes films, like James Spader in “Pretty In Pink”.
I know this music will wind up being co-opted by frathouses across America in another year or two, but I’d like to enjoy their sunny and jammy tunes until someone in a LaCoste shirt and a pair of Birkenstocks ruins it for me. Anyway, in their preppiness, because of their endearing qualities (see film trailer), they remind me more of an army of instrument-playing George Michael Bluths from “Arrested Development” and less of the Spader-type arch-villain prepster. A little nerdy in their preppitude, I suppose. And I like that.
They sound like the kind of band that Wes Anderson would want to feature on the soundtrack for his next film…at home in “Rushmore” or “The Royal Tennenbaums”. Mark Mothersbaugh would probably approve too.
My girlfriend and I were recently back in NYC to catch up with friends and eat some good food and go shopping and so forth. As luck would have it, Vampire Weekend were doing a free performance as part of the Central Park summer stage series. Since I was digging on their album so much, and for once my girlfriend actually sorta kinda liked music that I was listening to, we decided to go. It was absolutely mobbed. The lines were backed up through half of the park. There was no way we were getting in–even
though we got there PLENTY early. You could still hear the music though if you sat outside of the gated area, so we resigned ourselves to spreading out a beach towel and just hearing them for free if not seeing them for free. After we’d been relaxing on the grass for about a half of an hour–band still not on yet because, as I mentioned, we were early–the heavens split and the rain, well she did come on down. We stayed it out for a bit…thinking, ‘this too, shall pass’, but it got pretty bad. Like full on high water pressure shower soaking. Also, the thunder and lightening started and we were pretty sure they’d just can it on account of all that electricity dancing over our heads. So, we headed back. Here’s my girlfriend and me fleeing to the Columbus Circle subway stations.
Turns out they put on a show anyway and it was purportedly fantastic…at least according to this poster from youtube who captured some of it with his cell phone. It’s a bit choppy…probably on account of the rain and all. Here they are doing “Walcott”, at the concert that I got rained at of. Did I mention that it was raining really hard? Before I leave you with this clip, I should mention that I just heard their cover of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”. I’d say it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, great…but you should judge that for yourself. It’s on youtube….I just can’t be bothered posting any more youtube stuff on here…
Oh alright, I will. It’s below the first video.