Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I am conflicted when it comes to Vampire Weekend. Actually I’ll take that back: I’m just downright prejudiced.

Firstly they are hugely popular which means my inner music snob instantly moves them over the divide into the mainstream camp I cannot possibly like. Secondly their much-reported privileged upbringing and education brings out the (middle) class armchair-warrior in me. Thirdly they look like a Tommy Hilfiger catalogue in search of a yacht (see previous prejudice). Fourthly lyrically they either reinforce the aforementioned prejudice (Louis Vuitton and Bennetton references in ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’) or indulge in meaningless fridge-magnet nonsense (rhyming ‘Horcharta’ with ‘balaclava’?!). And fifthly daughter 1.0 is now a huge fan - so in much the same way as I disdained (some of*) my parents’ music, I feel compelled to disdain my child’s music.

But, but, but. There are moments on both the first record and this year’s ‘Contra’ where I overcome these narrow prejudices and enjoy the music. The top three songs or so on both records have their moments: a catchiness and knack with rhythm that is infectiously and guiltily pleasing. (And hence their popularity?)

Last time I saw them live I was pretty unimpressed by their attempt to replicate the record note for note – what’s the point of being at a gig if it is a pristine reproduction of what you hear at home or in your earphones? I’ve been trying to keep an open mind on this gig but it definitely was an improvement: sticky floor, pint spilt over my arm during ‘A-Punk’, lead singer Ezra Koenig actually breaking a sweat. And musically there were moments too that broke out of the pristine jacket of the record: the drums on ‘Cousins’ were hugely chaotic and exciting.

But it came to me during tonight why on balance Vampire Weekend, live or on record, doesn’t truly work for me. They blend literate US college-rock, which I love, with African highlife guitar music which is unstoppably funky. But somehow with Vampire Weekend the combination of both just lacks spirit. It may be catchy and poppy but it has no emotion or earthiness or grit.

So sorry this was a list of prejudices rather than a review. To compensate those looking for something more the set list follows. And certainly the word-perfect singing crowd at this sold-out show adored the band.

But if you want some American music that brings African rhythms into (lofi) alt-pop with imagination, edge and and truly unhinged abandon, try Tune-Yards. The album Bird-Brains is out now on 4AD and her first UK tour starts tomorrow in Brighton. This might just be my inner music snob at work again (you know me so well) but seriously give this a listen and tell me it ain’t a damn sight more interesting and emotional than preppy and clean-cut songs about grammar.

The Set List:

White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
[something here]
California English
Taxi Cab
One (Blake’s Got A New Face)
Diplomat’s Son
Ladies of Cambridge
Giving Up The Gun
Oxford Comma
Mansard Roof

Vampire Weekend
Contra [BUY]

Bird-brains [BUY]

* I could never disdain The Carpenters. Too much heart-break and sadness for disdain.



Who You Gonna Call
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080

Hi FoY,

On behalf of XL Recordings and Vampire Weekend, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of "Contra" on your site (or any non-preview tracks from Vampire Weekend's new album - street date 11th Jan UK & 12th Jan US).

We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Vampire Weekend, but the label and artist would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

Thank you for respecting the artist's and label’s wishes and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, then full length versions of "Horchata" and "White Sky" are available for fans and bloggers to link to / post / host etc at www.vampireweekend.com . Additionally, all three tracks from the Vampire Weekend Meets Toy Selectah bonus CD "Contra Megamelt" ("Cousinz", "Contramelt A" and "Contramelt B") have now also been designated as fan previews for sharing ahead of release … .. for further details of the new album, on-line promotions, videos and 2010 shows, check-out the official site, as well as the band’s Myspace at www.myspace.com/vampireweekend and XL’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/XLRecordings ... .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material and on-line promotions.

As a special, New Year’s gesture to fans and bloggers, an exclusive preview stream of the full album is now also available at the band’s MySpace page ... .. this is for hyper-linking ONLY and for streaming by fans directly off the band’s MySpace , so please reciprocate this goodwill gesture by NOT ripping or embedding these files ... .. similarly, a streaming widget is now also available off the band’s web-site for fans and bloggers to embed / enjoy pre-release but – again – please only use the official widget and don’t offer or embed ripped / pirated files.

Thanks Again & Best for 2010,


The Archivist said...

Sorry Sherriff - should have done my homework first re available tracks. 'Holiday' removed.