Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vampire Weekend debut lives up to hype

Gone are the days of touring endless bars half-full of drunk college kids for $50 and free beer until your band scrapes up enough money to record a demo and hope some label takes a chance. Even then, your band would need to make a hit music video or get on a magazine cover before becoming “big.”

In the age of MySpace, YouTube, FaceBook and thousands of music blogs, it is possible for a band to go from “total unknown” to “next big thing” in the blink of an eye. Vampire Weekend is one of these bands.

Hailing from New York, Vampire Weekend consists of four regular (although probably smart) guys who met at Columbia University. They look like how one would think four white kids from New York who go to Columbia look like – sweater-clad, skinny, maybe a little smarmy and simply adorable. These are rock stars that your parents would be delighted with if you brought one of them home for dinner.

A few of the band’s songs have been circulating the Internet since late 2007. The subsequent hype and “you got to check this out!” groundswell reached epic proportions – cresting with the release of the band’s self titled LP on January 29, 2008.

The song most are familiar with is “A-Punk,” a clip of which is shown after a number of MTV shows. Featuring the band’s signature surf-rock guitars and a healthy dose of sing-along-able “ohs” and “heys,” it’s easy to see why this song was chosen to represent the band’s style.

Indeed, Vampire Weekend’s music conjures images of Hawaiian shirts and sandy beaches. Keeping in theme, the band’s lyrics reference Cape Cod, New Mexico and California, along with college, and of course, girls. This isn’t deep stuff lyrically, but this is pop. It’s supposed to be fun, lighthearted and simple – and it is.

Album standout, “Walcott” is an upbeat, piano-filled story about the trappings of Cape Cod. Vampire Weekend shows their music savvy on this track, using the perfect amount of strings – which seem to pleasantly fade in and out throughout the record.

Off of “Walcott”: “Walcott/Mystic seaport/Is that that way/Don't you know/That your life could be lost?/Out of Cape Cod tonight.”

Vampire Weekend’s influences are clear on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Lyrically referring to Peter Gabriel and stylistically sounding a lot like Paul Simon. There’s bongo, maraca, simple, short guitar and kitschy lyrics. “Is your bed made?/Is your sweater on?/Do you want to/Like you know I do.”

“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” represents what Vampire Weekend are about. They’re fun, a little immature, simple musically and pretty damn good song writers.

Vampire Weekend is an interesting record. It may seem unappealing – too happy, sunny or goofy, to some listeners. But after one listen, you just want to hear that one song again. Soon, one song turns into two. And then three. Suddenly, you’ll have listened to the whole thing three times.

Try as one might, it is very difficult to resist the charms of these four Columbia-schooled New Yorkers with their argyle sweaters and button-down shirts. Their two and a half minute pop vignettes will be playing in your head the minute you turn the record off – if you can, that is.

Vampire Weekend, "A-Punk."

1 comment:

Rich said...

For whatever reason, I didn't like Vampire Weekend when I first heard them. My main problem was with the vocals, which I felt sounded a little too much like the guy from The Walkmen (I can't stand him). Upon listening to the full length, they are really fucking good and I got over the voice issue. "Walcott" is going to be the anthem for so many depressed Cape Cod high schoolers, if they could get paid royalties for how many times that is going to be played on the Cape, they would be billionaires in 5 years flat.