Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008): Review

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Produced by Rostam Batmanglij
Label – XL

One often has to bow to the power of music websites. They can kill or cure a listener’s indecision by the stroke of their wordy penmanship. Brooklyn quartet Vampire Weekend have benefited from a constant maelstrom of positive comments from drooling musical typists, all extolling the virtues of a band of bold and brash ideas, bringing original sounds to the collectively mundane world of indie pop. Admittedly, their approach is interesting, taking the tried and trusted lo-fi sound of alt-rock and adding occasional Afro pop guitar licks and melodious vocal phrasing. That said, their debut long player is only half a triumph. What should have been a potentially enduring collection of musical admissions of long-term intent becomes a superfluous addition to the list of bands who have toyed around with world music. There seem to be two reasons why.

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Firstly, the rhythms on Vampire Weekend don’t form the focal point of the music; they complement, rather than drive, the tempo of the song. Anyone who has listened to successful artists who have recorded African-influenced music (such as David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, or Paul Simon) will immediately notice the complexity, subtlety and ultimate vitality of the rhythm behind those songs. Vampire Weekend often sounds clunky and awkward, like one would imagine the Strokes would sound performing the collective works of King Sunny Ade. Whereas Byrne, Gabriel and Simon soaked themselves in total integration between African musicians and their individual musical interpretations, the Brooklyn boys offer the merest shallow postcard of African sounds. In other words, whilst Gabriel took the listener on safari, Vampire Weekend leaves us in the hotel lobby.

Secondly, there’s the ambiguity of Ezra Koenig’s lyrics, campus doodles and ill-fitting analogies that bear no hint of well-directed storyline. “No excuse to be so callous/ Dress yourself in bleeding madras” is surely a line that only the writer will comprehend, and the repetitive shrill squawk of “Blake’s got a new face” becomes so nauseating it leaves the listener thinking, “Yes, and I’d like to fill it with my fist.”

That said, Vampire Weekend IS different, at times energetic, with some engaging symphonic string-and-keyboard interplay that suggests that musically the band will definitely garner interest from listeners searching for something that veers off-kilter. Album highlights are the nimble punk of “A-Punk” and the charming opener “Mansard Roof.”

They describe their music as “Upper West Side, Soweto.” If this is ironic humour, I’m not sure, but I laughed like a drain when I read it.

6/10

Track Listing
1.”Mansard Roof” 2:07
2.”Oxford Comma” 3:15
3.”A-Punk” 2:17
4.”Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” 3:34
5.”M79″ 4:15
6.”Campus” 2:56
7.”Bryn” 2:13
8.”One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” 3:13
9.”I Stand Corrected” 2:39
10.”Walcott” 3:41
11.”The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” 4:03

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2 responses to “Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008): Review

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