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- Vampire Weekend »
Musical hybridization, mashing-up, wearing your varied influences so loudly on your sleeve that you’ve practically blocked out any sign of individuality – whatever you label it, the big musical meal ticket this year is to indulge your eclectic side by taking one forgotten or less-than-favourable genre, mix it with something a little more up-to-the-minute and voila, one piping hot sound perfectly suited for the poorly named MySpace generation.
At least, that’s what the broadsheets, print mags and a few online sites are touting as a key ingredient to success with this year’s incoming freshman class of acts to keep an eye on in ‘08. From the looks of things, it’s an idea that’s catching on with the people because they’re out in force tonight to get a glimpse of the four Ivy League via Brooklyn types in Vampire Weekend whose marriage of afro-rhythms and straight-up pop has cringe-worthingly been called (by the band themselves) ‘Upper West Side Soweto’. Ridiculous? Tongue in cheek? You decide.
Stepping out to a roar from the audience dressed like extras from frat comedy classic Animal House, Vampire Weekend are all white teeth and clean haircuts as they strike the stop-start first chords of album opener, ‘Mansard Roof’. On record, their skewered take on guitar pop has enough kinks in it to partially cater to the Strokes/Walkmen pedigree that helped define the sound of their city in the first half of this decade. Even if, at their most basic, it’s difficult to deny the underlying strain of AOR imbedded in Vampire Weekend’s DNA.
Yank back the curtain, as it inevitably is, in the live arena though, and any semblance of spiky intrigue is completely abandoned to reveal a white-washed entity purely indebted to the sounds of Paul Simon’s_ Graceland or Sting’s broad forays into world music. A point well represented by the poor man’s skank of _‘Boston’ _or the much-feted ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’_, a song that devolves into the lowest dregs of forgettable, ‘80s collegiate pop rock, with the band looking visibly pleased at the fact that yes, they’ve ‘cleverly’ referenced a long-standing vacation hot spot for affluent New Yorkers and a dance rhythm hailing from the much-maligned Congo in the space of a single song title.
Which brings forth a question about Vampire Weekend. Are they, as all the column inches keep touting, brilliant 21st century alchemists conspiring to bring a joyous sense of afro-funk to typically stiff white boy pop? Or, are they nothing more than over-educated young men indulging in a shallow cultural appropriation that borders on hollow pastiche? Early signs may once have pointed towards the former, but on the evidence of tonight, the latter looks set to be the case. And that is simply inexcusable.
Photo: Masatoo Hirano, from Flickr
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