Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Headphones: Vampire Weekend's debut

I'm going to Boston this weekend, or as my Yankee super-fan girlfriend would call it, "enemy territory". It has given the world good things - Mission Of Burma and the Pixies - but Aerosmith has created a lot for the city to answer for (though Rocks is pretty fuckin' sweet). Anyway, Vampire Weekend spends a lot of time singing about New England, Cape Cod this, Cambridge that, all while dressed like the rich-kid villains from any one of the teen flicks in the 80's. I try not to judge, but it's hard. Some critics have made the distinction that the band is definitely a pop band as opposed to a rock band, and I'd say not only is that true, but it's a necessary point. Rock & Roll was, is, and should be partially about your parents disapproval. And here's Vampire Weekend looking like the L.L. Bean catalog. Hmmm...not so much.

That sensibility informs their music. They get compared to the Talking Heads and Strokes a lot, but these are terrible comparisons. First of all, The Strokes are a better band, and their debut is better. If you ask me what I want to hear about in lyrics, rooms on fire or professors & campus, I'm gonna exclaim "Rooms on muthafuckin' fire!!" No one likes school, you square. Speaking of, David Byrne went to college in Rhode Island - behind enemy lines - and he made it out fine because he was special (or batshit crazy). He managed to stay insane for a few years, and when he started mellowing and getting arty, that time people like the most, like Remain In Light, I tuned out. You want a good comparison, check this real-life exchange between my girlfriend & I from earlier this evening, and the reason I'm busting this review out right now:

[cheesy 80's music playing over restaurant speakers]
Me: "Have you heard Vampire Weekend yet?"
Veronica: "I saw the video. I didn't like it."
Me: "The one with the stop-motion?" [referring to "A-Punk"]
Veronica: "Yeah. The video and the song were stupid."
Me: "Really? I thought it was OK..." [playing devil's advocate]
Veronica: "It just seemed like something Sting would've done."

There you have it folks. She said Sting. Not The Police. Sting. And no one wants to be like Sting. I know, because when I was young and dumb, I was a Sting fan. Then I bought the first Clash record. Sting collected dust from then on. Furthermore, I'm also reminded of that "classic" Feelies album, Crazy Rhythms from '82 (the one Rivers Cuomo stole the cover idea for the "Blue Album" from), which is another album that I bought because of its revered status, before being underwhelmed, only to be exiled to sit in a box somewhere. Don't get me wrong. It's not a bad album. It's just...OK, and only OK. "Mansard Roof" has that interesting beat, and "I Stand Corrected" is pretty good (mostly cuz it doesn't sound like the rest of the album). But the rest is pretty much all the same. And seriously, if you want an album that's like this, but you know, GOOD, pick up The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta, from back when Sting didn't totally suck. Oh yeah, and by the way, if you're going to pose with Fear Of A Black Planet in a picture, why not try making some music that sounds like you know Public Enemy exists. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to The Stooges' Fun House before bed.

"A-Punk" [video]


ps chase said...

I don't know what to think about these kids yet. Somebody turned on the hype machine for them. I think they do SNL tonight and the record been out for what, 8 months?

Raz said...

As far as I know, the album's only been out since January, but their stuff has been all over the internets for months. I just don't get it - as "classic pop" goes, I don't see this ever measuring up to The Smiths or Duran Duran, let alone The Beatles or Motown.