Monday, January 28, 2008

Record Review: Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend
NQL Rating System Rating: Very Good

One of the many benefits of being a staff writer for NQL, besides every other Friday being a half-day, is the opportunity to taste some tunes before they hit the stores. Consequently, Cloverfield's own Vampire Weekend's S/T (which means self-titled I recently learned) has been a daily friend of mine since that one night in December when I chose to risk everything and jog with music. Thankfully, these Columbia University grads debut is 10 songs and thirty-four minutes of good times, popped collars and catchy riffs that would make my arduous 3.25 mile trek seem more like a 5 kilometer afro-pop* awakening.

The polished guitar sound begins at the outset with “Mansard Roof.” A title that apparently refers to a late 19th century roofing technique that people in Europe and courthouses in the United States latched onto. Apparently, however, Vampire Weekend has themselves had an impact on those familiar with roofs that look like they would leak all the time. (Do a Wikipedia search of "Mansard Roof" and scroll down to the 7th paragraph.) The band has a very unique sound that is maintained throughout their next songs on the album, “Oxford Comma”, “A-Punk”, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Boston.” I never thought a song with repeated cries for Peter Gabriel and the words “Cape Cod” in the title would fancy my aural appetite. But move over Rivers Cuomo, you have company, and they actually went to an Ivy League school when it was legal for them to date someone in high school.

The drum intro and chorus made “Campus” my favorite song on the album. As Ezra Koenig, with preppier echoes of Paul Simon, sings “How I am suppose to pretend/I am never going to see you again,” it is refreshing to know that random one-night-fucks apparently happen to smart kids as well. This is followed by “One”, “Bryn” and “Walcott”, where the band continues their ode to all things Cape Cod. Closing track “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” is a positive departure in sound and energy from the rest of the album and gives hope that this band will continue to evolve their distinctive sound. It’s significant that this album continues to grow on me weeks after first hearing it. The first listens, while different in sound, will take you back to how you felt when you first heard The Stroke’s Is This It?, Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!’s S/T. Many a critic take solace in comparing The Strokes to Velvet Underground, Arcade Fire to Joy Division and CYHSY to the Talking Heads. Don’t do that with this album! This band will have plenty of opportunities with their hectic touring and promotion to define and separate themselves from any comparisons.

I recently heard the song "A-Punk" inside an Old Navy. Thanks to Pitchfork Media, the Target of "indie music", the days of being able to listen to music with your friends and taking a selfish pride knowing that it is relatively unknown to the masses are gone. Nevertheless, do listen to this album the way you listened back when you first heard the Strokes or Arcade Fire. That's the attention this album deserves...and this sort of attention can't be fairly given while trying on a pair of cheap cargo pants.

*Note: Apparently Vampire Weekend bought the rights to this genre of rock music. I have no idea what it means—other than the fact that almost every article in researching this album described them as having this sound.

--Matt Farra


The Dong Machine said...

was it hard typing this while patting yourself on the back?

Brian said...

Is it hard referring to yourself as "the dong machine"? Because I'd think it would be.

Alex said...

Probably not as hard as it was for him to step away from that rock star video game.

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