Posted 3/31/2008 by cal
I wish I could’ve written about Vampire Weekend before the buzz got louder than the music. Or at least before Spin got a chance to footnote singer Ezra Koenig’s threads. Even better, before Kurt Cobain ever wore a “corporate magazines still suck” t-shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone. We could’ve used a Vampire Weekend in the early 90’s.
In those days, broke-ass grunge punks like me were getting pissed off that teet-sucking preppies were co-opting all our good music, but there was never any danger that they’d try to play it. By now, we’ve all shed that indignation-masked jealousy and realized that our goal should be a society without social class distinctions, right? Unfortunately, the other trend Kurt made popular was the pre-emptive hipster backlash that apparently bore down on VW already, so bear with me as I bask in the uncoolness of gushing about Vampire Weekend. Sure, Koenig’s vocals on “Oxford Comma” initially seem just as smarmy as any unsigned ingrate’s, almost as insincere as Ben Gibbard going “ba-BAAAH,” but there’s an almost Billy Joel-esque purse to his lips that makes him sound less glib. The still-active-elder-statesmen-who-once-dabbled-in-world-music (come on, "River Of Dreams" counts) references don’t stop there, either; “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” name-checks Peter Gabriel, but it could’ve come straight off of Paul Simon’s The Rhythm Of The Saints if it were a bit more lyrically weighty and obscure. As is, it’s just unapologetic, high-quality, college radio taffy. “M79” and “Campus” veer towards Andrew Bird’s virtuosic hybrid of chamber pop and literate folk, only even catchier and not as self-consciously clever. And if they haven’t got you yet, the staccato synth of “One” will subliminally snare you, and even after one listen you’ll find your mind shrieking “Blake’s got a new face” an hour later and wondering where the hell that came from. It’s emblematic of the album as a whole: melodic but never overbearing, quirky but never too busy, well-crafted but not calculated. Don’t overestimate its depth, though; essentially, it’s just college kids singing about college kid stuff and goofing around with a myriad of instruments they happen to be really good at arranging and playing. Still, when Koenig sings “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” he’s clearly not including himself in that reference…yet it might be that soft-pedaled lack of self-awareness that lends credence to the candor of these songs. Rich kids have feelings, too, after all.