Saturday, February 2, 2008

Who am I to blow against the wind?

After listening to the copy of Vampire Weekend's debut EP that my friend Mike Powell had posted about 10 months ago (!), I thought it was okay: noted the sparkly guitars, the vocalist whose slight lisp and high pitch reminded of what's-his-name from Third Eye Blind, and, right, the Peter Gabriel reference. I got the album a few days ago and, although I should know better in this quick turnover listen-and-respond age, am baffled by the disjunction between its achievement and the opprobrium it's already generated ("I bet these guys read sheet music" is the stupidest criticism I've read in years). Vampire Weekend is as good as it's supposed to be and not one note more, an album by four smart guys tentative about everything -- women, Peter Gabriel, Benetton, college professors -- except their milieu, which you wouldn't know about if you didn't pay attention to their lyrics or the chatter of the gossiping classes*. If rock history teaches us anything, it's that a sense of geography may deepen into a sense of self: Vampire Weekend will figure out who they are when they've studied where they are. In a sense, I'm glad I'm not more enthusiastic about Vampire Weekend, and am doubly grateful that I don't live anywhere near New York.

Finally, the much-vaunted Graceland comparisons are rubbish; Ezra Koenig's writing is too spare -- malnourished? -- to sustain them. A good thing too -- it took years for the bloom of Paul Simon's heavily breathed Garfunkel poesy to fade into something you can slip between the pages of your family Bible, and "I Know What I Know" is too clever about its self-deprecation.

* of which I'm a member.

8 comments:

blackmail is my life said...

Yeah the Graceland comparisons are classic rock crit shorthand for 'i'm looking to compare this album to something sufficiently uncool to elevate both albums simultaneously' to me.

Hans said...

Whatever hapenned to "just enjoying them for what they are"? It's fun! Agree with Alfred- Lazy Graceland references- the churning piranha waters of rock criticism should at least allow some time for the newest hype band to actually make a splash in the water before they kill it.

M said...

cosign on "sheet music." and I've already said my share about the Graceland refs (though I'll add that J-Shep's King Sunny Ade refs are equally off-mark).

Alfred Soto said...

To be fair, I thought I heard KSA too, until I relistened to Juju Music a few days ago. Some of the synth parts remind me -- ever so slightly -- of Aura though.

John said...

Re: the Graceland references, who's to say what people hear when they listen to a record. I haven't listened to anything on Graceland for at least 15 years, probably longer, yet when I heard "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" from Vampire Weekend, the absolute first thing I thought of was Graceland. Was I wrong? No, because that's what I heard. If I went back and analyzed the differences in songwriting, arrangement and instrumentation, I might agree with you and decide it's probably a weak connection at best. But I know that when a friend describes it as something faintly resembling Graceland covered by the Strokes if they pretended to be college educated rather than street savvy, I wouldn't be surprised by what I hear.

M said...

I'll remember that the next time I listen to the Sex Pistols and think I'm hearing the Byrds.

John said...

That's just brilliant.

lejospopo said...

I don't mind whether it really sounds like graceland or not, but I've been listening to both albums in tandem for about a week now