Vampire Weekend (XL Recordings, 2008)

The members of Vampire Weekend met while studying at Columbia University in New York City, and took their name from a B-movie they all worked on. Describing their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto," Ezra Koenig (vocals and guitar), Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards, guitar, producer), Chris Baio (bass), and Chris Tomson (drums) combine rock and punk with reggae and township jive. It's an intriguing combination to say the least, and despite some reservations I have, they pull it off fairly well on their self-titled debut album.

Given lyrics making multiple references to Cape Cod, college life, designer clothes, and gourmet tea, it would be very easy to describe Vampire Weekend as punk reggae for preppies, with all the dismissiveness that implies. They redeem themselves, though, by demonstrating a firm understanding of the music they emulate. This is made particularly remarkable by the fact that their primary influences, from Bob Marley to bands like The Clash and The English Beat to even Paul Simon's Graceland, come from before the band members were even born. And they also do a good job of working world music influences into a mainstream rock and pop context, which is something I wish more bands would try to do. And it's produced some positive commercial results too, as the energetic single "A-Punk" has gotten substantial play on mainstream radio.

Youthful energy, combined with a willingness to venture into musical territory that most people their age know nothing about, give Vampire Weekend a sound that's a breath of fresh air in today's pop market. With a little bit of maturity, they could be major players in the music scene in the years to come.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

This group is a lot of fun. They have a clean and playful sound. I hadn't heard of them before, but I added them to my Zune.