by the Night Writer
And now, as the man said, time for something completely different.
There were those weekends in my college days when my work and social schedule resulted in me essentially being up all night and trying to sleep all day. Those days are what I thought of when I first heard anyone talk about the band Vampire Weekend a couple of years ago; I figured they were a college band with a schedule like mine. Otherwise I didn’t pay much attention to them or hear any of their music since I don’t listen to pop radio much anymore. I was somewhat aware of them as the trendy flavor of the month with some people but my curiousity wasn’t really piqued.
A few weeks ago, however, I read a review of their new album, Contra, and the reviewer described their interesting rhythms and sound as somewhat reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “Rhythm of the Saints” or work by Peter Gabriel and Afro-Celt Sound System. Since those are all favorites of mine I decided to sample the album via iTunes and was a bit surprised to find out I liked what I heard. Yes, there are Gabriel/Afro-Celt sounds on the album but the music is brighter and more upbeat and with a Martha’s Vineyard kind of vibe. It’s preppy and poppy almost to the point of being dismissed, but then some new rhythm line comes blowing in to bounce the mullygrubs out of you.
Most of the songs are pretty short, about three minutes as in the old days of pop radio, and the lyrics are pretty spare. I think the words from a typical song would fit into a tweet with characters left over, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be beguiling or just off-the-wall enough to make you do an aural double-take. The first song I listened to, in fact, started out with the two lines “In December, drinking horchata, I look psychotic in my balaclava.” I mean, don’t you just have to know what comes after that? The other songs I sampled were also appealing so I took the somewhat impulsive step of blowing the $25 iTunes gift certificate I got for Christmas on Vampire Weekend’s self-titled first album and Contra. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, whatever disappointment you might be feeling in your life right now, VM may likely cure it with their rhythm and verve. (Wait a minute, make that “Rhythm & Verve” and I’ve coined a new music term – move over Alan Freed!)
So, anyway, I’m not going to try and analyze their music or message, or go song-by-song through their collection opining on contrapuntal constructions and sugar-coated schadenfreude or the socio-artistic relevance of their oeuvre. This is purely happy stuff, and you can take a free listen for yourself here. Just take your shoes off before you do, or at least loosen them. I guarantee your toes are going to want to tap.
The band also bears the Tiger Lilly stamp of approval. Perhaps she’ll add her own thoughts here as well.