Okay, so the anti-establishment establishment’s (calendar year) 2008 strategic vision memo has been floating around the hipper-than-thou enclaves for a while. I got my first briefing for this year’s plans when I went to Darjeeling Limited on opening night. They distributed a draft-copy after the film ended (what, you didn’t stay for the credits? Shame on you.) It was still in mark-up phase at that point. The official version was leaked recently to DCists who endured a Fiery Furnaces set. By the way, there was one major content change: all references to/endorsements of Juno were excised and organizers have insisted on a moratorium on all interest in the film. Can you believe the nerve of those 11-year-old bitches running around in Hannah Montana t-shirts singing a Moldy Peaches song!?
Then and now, however, there was solid consensus that spring 2008 “it-ness” (in the “LP” category) was conferred to Columbia University’s Vampire Weekend. Right on schedule this past week, their “it-ness” was confirmed by how the indie-media-complex zealously fellated their self-titled debut.
Vampire Weekend sound like a glossy version of The Unicorns and, yes, as everyone has mentioned, the lead vocals remind us all of (a circa-Graceland) Paul Simon. But, their debut is also a post-punk-ish affair seasoned with a dash of Belle & Sebastian and, refreshingly, a sly dose of Pulp-like style and irreverence.
Since it’s shrouded in such a thick slathering of hosannas, doing what you can to cut through the hype and see if there’s any “there” to the record is a bit of a chore. But, if you’re cynical of your own cynicism for a moment, there are several gems to find here.
Overall, the general spirit of Vampire Weekend is romantic and playful and the tunes are interestingly arranged. In particular, the sequencing is inspired when it comes to the transitions between “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “M79” and throughout the “I Stand Corrected,” “Walcott,” and “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” trifecta. The bulk of the disc’s lyrics are spry and jocular and relate details of near-hits and near-misses of various trysts (“How am I supposed to pretend/I never want to see you again?”).
They also make a couple detours into more serious headspace. The urgent, yet somehow weightless, “Oxford Comma” juxtaposes its pithy opener “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?/I’ve seen those English dramas too/They’re cruel” with its later punchline: “First the window, then it’s to the wall/Lil’ Jon, he always tells the truth.” Later the record drifts to the somber with “I Stand Corrected,” a moody little piece about the anxiety of attraction and first moves and those minute movements we all take toward relationships: “I’ve been at this far too long/To act like that when we should be/In perfect harmony/I stand corrected” and “Forget the protocol/I’ll take your hand/Right in mine/I stand corrected.” From there it becomes more Walkmen than the Walkmen with “Walcott,” which jukes, jives, and crashes its way into “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” resolution.
The persistence and longevity of Vampire Weekend is what counts, though. And to that end, though the record does not shatter or reform any paradigms, it is affecting enough to warrant unapologetic grafting into your my-life-scored-to-my-ipod playist.
And while we’re at it, let me note that Vampire Weekend has introduced another layer of us vs. them stratification to the hypersensitive, overeducated, and elitist circles of art-snobbery: do you or do you not “give a fuck about the Oxford comma?” And if you read that last sentence you obviously know how I feel about the issue.
Vampire Weekend will not cure HPV, help you understand Thomas Pynchon, or get Obama elected, but their debut is a breezy good time. The tastemakers turned their backs on The Shins, Bloc Party, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and odds are that they’ll cannibalize these upstarts, as well. Keep that in mind. With that said, just don’t get sick of them too soon: my money’s on “Oxford Comma,” “A-Punk,” “I Stand Corrected,” and “Walcott” becoming wonderful summertime go-tos.
And if you want to see who makes next year’s “it” list, or you’d like to be considered as a contributor to or a proofreader of the 2009 Strategic Vision Memo please send me an email expressing your interest and a list of your top 3 Confessional poets (I’m sorry, the answer “John Berryman” is no longer accepted). If you make the cut, you’ll be asked to provide a receipt from Anthropologie clothing (or an invoice from Insound), six empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and a picture of yourself wearing only a single pair of American Apparel socks. And I’ll pass your name around to the nominating committee for a background check.
Steven Rybicki is a Patrol contributing editor.
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