Wild Mercury Sound

Vampire Weekend: "Vampire Weekend"

John Mulvey

I know it’s a blogger’s imperative to write about albums several months before they’re actually released, but sometimes, it takes a little longer for me to get the hang of a record. Amusingly, I’m usually slow to like records which are immediately acclaimed elsewhere for their brilliance, accessibility and so on.

Consequently, while every other music blogger on the planet has been extolling the virtues of Vampire Weekend for months now, it was only last week – when “Vampire Weekend” was on sale in shops, of all things – that it finally clicked with me.

Better late than never. If you’ve been suspicious of all the hype around these well-groomed Brooklynites, it might be worth, like me, having another go. I think my initial mild antipathy – stimulated, I guess, by the “Mansard Roof” single – was because they sounded roughly like something arch and post-Strokes; a little too indie and skinny-sounding for my distortion-heavy tastes. The whole Ivy League schtick was appealing, though. I’ve always been mistrustful of that British music hack tradition of fetishising working-class bands as somehow more “real”; as I’ve mentioned here before, I think it’s a pretty limiting and problematic critical approach to parse artists for ‘authenticity’, whatever that means.

Vampire Weekend, of course, seem to be pretty authentic East Coast graduates. But the self-conscious, wry focus on Cape Cod, collegiate business which fills “Vampire Weekend” is so relentless as to be hyper-real. If Whit Stillman were ever to make a film about a rock band – it’d be nice if he ever made another film full stop, actually – I imagine they’d be a lot like Vampire Weekend (sadly, Chris Eigeman must be a bit too old to play the singer now).

Anyway, this record. I could go on about the African influences and all that, but that’s been covered off pretty substantially elsewhere. What I like about “Vampire Weekend” most is the thing that initially repelled me: what I initially heard as skinniness, I know hear as great measure and lack of clutter, a sense of space. Unlike so many other bands who’ve followed in the wake of The Strokes, the playing here – like that of The Strokes – is precise and artful, rather than shambolic and meandering.

It isn’t, though, particularly uptight – in spite of all those upper-class stereotypes. A lot of the songs – but especially “Walcott”, my current favourite – are powered by a kind of prim exuberance. It isn’t the great psychedelic gust that I usually bang on about, but there is a palpable unfettered joy in this music which, when it comes packaged in button-down shirts – feels rather quaintly subversive.

And maybe there’s something about playing the album a couple of times. Because when you’ve heard these songs more than once, it’s hard to shake them out of your head. In a while, that might be more of a problem than a pleasure. But for now, it makes for a really good start to the week.


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