Smile Politely

Album Review: Vampire Weekend, S/T

Now and then a band comes out of nowhere for what seems like the express purpose of blowing our collective minds. Of course, no band literally “comes out of nowhere”—this particular one came out of Columbia University’s dormitories—but with the right kind of hype that’s both fast-tracked and warranted, these diamonds in the rough (and let’s face it, it’s pretty rough out there) seem to materialize before our eyes. We, as musical scourers, live for bands like Vampire Weekend. Akin to finding a pristine vinyl collection priced-to-liquidate (remember that scene in Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity?), or that perfect piece of vintage clothing hidden amidst the wreckage of your favorite thrift outlet, these bands remind us why we bother to search in the first place. And somewhere along the way is the inherent true definition as to why we love music, and it’s not to listen, over and over, to the same Beatles record we’ll hold over the heads of all other records; it’s to find something that’ll finally challenge those lauded unbeatables.

Vampire Weekend, of course, is not going to beat the unbeatables. That said, Vampire Weekend is everything you’ve heard it is, and in case you haven’t heard yet, here’s what you would have heard if you had: Paul Simon’s Graceland meets Afro-pop meets Talking Heads meets privileged Ivy League book-smarts. Of course it’s much more complicated than this, but in lieu of gross repetition I’ll just say all of these components are basically there. But there’s also Kinks-esque orchestration and the feeling that, with time, Wes Anderson will use one of these songs in an upcoming film—either that or Anderson has already used the songs that act as inspiration for Vampire Weekend in the first place. There’s a fear that, as a consumer, you might be investing a lot in a band of the week. But there’s also pure enjoyment. And while it becomes difficult to be right there with frontman Ezra Koenig when he asks, “Don’t you want to get out of Cape Cod tonight?”—as if he’s running from privilege itself, in some ways the American Dream and in some ways contrary to that grand notion—you get the sense that Koenig is seething at this privilege with sarcasm, and using the pithy, amorphous vehicle of rock ‘n’ roll to do so. Like Philip Roth’s What To Expect From The Upcoming Vampire Weekend Backlash.” New York.

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