Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut album has been on WRCT’s top 10 for several weeks, and this week is no exception. The band is the talk of Pitchfork Media and a variety of blogs, got 4.5 stars from Rolling Stone, was named “Year’s Best New Band” by Spin magazine, and all you indie kids have been gleefully clapping to its song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” for the past six months.
If you are not yet familiar with Vampire Weekend, the group is composed of four Columbia University grads who create catchy indie-pop. The players toured with The Shins, and they cite an afro-pop blog (www.bennloxo.com) as one of their sources of inspiration. These guys — just like a lot of the guys I hang out with — are thoroughly intelligent, well-dressed, and friendly. They surf the Internet and they make short films.
Seemingly cool guys, really. I desperately want to love their album. For some reason, though, their music makes my stomach turn. Every attempt to sit through all 11 songs has been halted by some primitive repulsion.
Vocalist Ezra Koenig describes “the ideal Vampire Weekend” in an interview with The Bwog (www.bwog.net) as “preppiness with West African guitar pop, a perfect fusion of happy world music with Western, New England preppiness.” Oh, is it preppy music, Ezra?
Wikipedia describes the slang usage of preppy adequately: “In recent years, young people have begun to use the term ‘preppy’ to describe those who strive to appear better off financially or socially than others in a middle-class environment.... The slang version most often describes publicly educated people absorbed in the middle-class hypermaterialistic pop culture pursuit of ostensibly quality-made goods sold at prices attainable by almost all Americans” (emphasis added).
Vampire Weekend’s endeavor to appear well off (or, rather, flaunt this privilege) shines through each of the debut’s tracks. The players take the visceral bob and sway of the afro-pop they’re so in love with, correct their pitch and replace them with crisp synths, crooning vocals, and an over-processed drum set. To me, at least, Vampire Weekend’s sound reflects a paternal colonial view of Africa that persists despite the band members’ highly-publicized Ivy League education.
And the band members are sure to make their education and lifestyle shine through their nauseating lyrics — which mention Lil’ Jon, Benetton, Louis Vuitton, Darjeeling tea, Oxford commas, the Khyber Pass, the dowdiness of a sweatshirt, and a soiled keffiyeh. Additionally, they complain about Cape Cod and treat New Jersey like some gritty exotic escape. How adorably and provincially tragic!
Perhaps I’m taking Vampire Weekend far too seriously — although the band members, along with music journalism as a whole, seem to be taking their skyrocketing success pretty damn seriously. If so, I really hope Vampire Weekend is a (very unfunny) joke.