Just trying to keep track of the music world in 2007 can give you a splitting migraine. Bands pop up seemingly out of the ether, hit next-big-thing status in a matter of weeks and then appear on your kid brother’s Myspace page a mere four weeks after that. Vampire Weekend are the latest of the bunch: a hipster-hyped four-piece of recent Columbia grads with a wry sense of humor and a jones for Paul Simon’s “Graceland,”
Despite being anonymous just a few months ago, the boys in Vampire Weekend are riding high at the moment, earning major articles in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Stylus. So when they rolled into town to play a two-night set at the Troubadour and the Silverlake Lounge, the record industry hounds turned out en masse to to see if the much hyped and more importantly un-signed Manhattites could live up to the advance billing.
The answer, unsurprisingly, is both yes and no. It feels unfair to place such unreasonable expectations on a band with just a slim three-song EP under their belt. Granted, the songs on the EP are solid and catchy Unicorns style shchizo-pop with a pronounced afro-beat influence, but these kids aren’t re-inventing the wheel either. They’re just updating Graceland for the new millenium, writing cute and quirky pop tunes sending the hipster nation into pleasant nostalgia of being todders toddling around to “You Can Call Me Al.”
On the plus side, Vampire Weekend have a lot going for them. First of all, they’ve thankfully resisted the urge to contrive some sort of ridiculous, cooler-than-thou cigarette dangling persona that has plagued New York bands over the last half decade (if Interpol ever decides to wonder why critics were so merciless on their latest jaunt, they might want to consider not looking like such assholes next time). Indeed, Vampire Weekend look nothing like what you’d expect from the latest NYC sensation. Their look is straight prep-school Polo, boat shoes and Oxford shirts, which doesn’t do much to mask the fact that these guys look all of 12 years old. Vampires are apparently only supposed to drink blood, but judging from non-threatening boyish air lead singer Ezra Koening, I’d wager that they only drink milk.
As for their live show, they certainly filled out the cracker-box Silverlake Lounge (a rather easy task but still). Koenig’s voice is unusually strong and powerful. As a front-man, he possesses a sense of spontaneity rarely seen in bands at such an incipient stage, blurting out the occasional extemporaneous “ay ay ay”, lending a playful vibe to the proceedings without veering into eye-rolling irony territory. Drummer Chris Tomson keeps things moving swiftly, pounding the drum kit with stutter-step world beat-accentuated rhythms.
Breezing through a light-hearted 35 minute set, the band ran through the entirety of their self-titled EP and several other tracks bound to make their full-length debut dropping later this year. While I’m still partial to the Islands in the competition to see who can best re-make Graceland for the 00s, Vampire Weekend remain an ingratiating bunch, one worthy of the attention lavished on them. While it remains to be seen whether they can evolve beyond their Paul Simon fixation to develop a wholly new sound of their own, they’re a fun band with a lot of potential. And to quote Black Sheep, “you can’t beat that with a (Vampire) bat.”
Read Circa 45’s Take on their Phoenix show and the 7″ he purchased there
Read Floating Away’s Take on their Troubadour set
MP3: Black Sheep-“The Choice is Yours Revisited”