Wild Mercury Sound

Vampire Weekend live

John Mulvey

Given how everyone has fixated on their Ivy League background, the sticky-floored ambience – the quintessential redbrick-ness - of ULU shouldn’t be quite right for Vampire Weekend. Surely, we should all be watching them in an immaculate marquee, in the grounds of an Oxford college, shortly before a long and intense reading party in the Cotswolds?

Anyone else as bored as I am of all the class anxiety and stereotyping that seems to have attached itself to this band? I worry a little that their entertaining subversion of orthodox rock language might become something of a millstone for Vampire Weekend, because it’s so easy for the reactionaries to snipe about ‘privilege’ and ‘preppiness’ and so on, and ignore the fact that they’re a quite excellent band.

I suppose I’ve written about all this before, when I tackled Vampire Weekend’s album, so I’ll just direct you to a couple of interesting blogs about Ezra Koenig’s fiction and the American collegiate perspective on their schtick. What would be more valuable, I guess, is to focus on how enjoyable their show was.

Strange night, mind. After 35 minutes of spindly, precise, exuberant pop music, Vampire Weekend are just starting to get into their stride. It’s striking how accurately they can reproduce the intricacies of that album; Koenig’s guitar playing and the drummer, especially, are vigorously proficient in contrast to the sloppiness of so many other post-Strokes indie boys. Occasionally, I’m disturbingly reminded of Fine Young Cannibals, not least in the way Koenig and the bassist bump into each other as they follow their jerky trajectories around the stage.

Then, though, the fire alarm goes off (just after Damon Albarn leaves the gig, if you’re in the mood for dubious conspiracy theories). The venue is evacuated, the fire engine arrives, there is the minuscule possibility of a well-mannered riot kicking off outside. And fortunately, after half an hour, the show starts again.

And now, Vampire Weekend are even better; funnier (Koenig refers to the “ULU Nation”); more relaxed, though the music remains satisfyingly highly-strung. There’s some wry, meta amusement to be had from the fact that they warm up again by covering Tom Petty’s “American Girl” – a song which The Strokes, their supposed role models, have often been accused of plagiarising, of course.

A new song features more explicit musical references to Township Jive than anything on the debut album, and then the home straight is a terrific, mildly unhinged run of “Campus”, “Oxford Comma” and a wonderful “Walcott” that suggests this skinny, odd but catchy music can sound big and impressive, too. Judging by some of the people I saw at the gig, I suspect they’re going to be everywhere this summer: give them a go.

Oh, and one more link: this seems to be the short film Ezra Koenig made which generated Vampire Weekend’s name. Quite sweet, really.


Editor's Letter

The Fourth Uncut Playlist Of 2015

This week's big distraction has been what appears to be a crazy number of early Aphex Twin tracks accumulating on Soundcloud (I've added the link below). Among the new stuff, though, please try Bop English; the new solo project of James Petralli from White Denim.