I needed to buy some music for my daughter this last Xmas because I forgot what size socks she wears these days. I thought it might have been "regular," but who knows what can happen to a kid's feet when she no longer lives under your roof? Anyway, she and I have always had similar tastes in music. Either that or she's just placating my ever-so-strong desire to remain hip. Shut up. I mean it. STFU. (I revel in your amazement that I know what those four letters mean. Talk to the hand. Oh, wait. That's OOD. Fuck me.)
You can see what I mean. It's a losing game. At some point, you just have to say, "I need help." So when I need help in terms of pop culture there are two places I can go. I can go next door and smoke a joint with Lawrence or I can ask smart people on websites I trust. Lawrence really doesn't know shit, except where to score drugs that I no longer use. Shut up. I mean it. STFU.
The website that I trust most told me that
I she might enjoy "Vampire Weekend." (Every time I put a quotation mark outside of a full stop, I think of Gritchka. And then I think of Mrs. Yates. And Mrs. Yates wins.) Where was I? Oh, "Vampire Weekend." I have got to tell you that I my daughter loves the hell out of this stuff. When I got this eponymously titled CD for her, that was the only one they had released at the time. (It came out on January 29, 2008.) There was all sorts of scuttlebutt around the internet with this blond girl's photo which was a tease for their second one, just released last month. But I've listened to enough of that one to say that the first one is a hell of a lot better. (I say "a hell of a lot" instead of just "a lot" because I watched a 2-hour episode of Lost last night, and apparently TV wants me to add "a hell of" in any declarative statement nowadays. I am a victim here.)
This is a bunch of kids who obviously studied music at a more advanced level than I ever did, which means they did more than buy a Bob Dylan song book and spend hours of tortured finger-bleeds learning how to make a barre chord. I'd guess that they're from rich families and that their parents probably either have tons of liberal guilt or have gone ahead and admitted the truth and now vote correctly.
A lot of what I read about this band refers to ska and other terms that mean very little to me. By "mean very little," I actually mean, "I don't give a shit." I remember when Paul Simon was doing Graceland and then working on even broader concepts of African rhythms and all sorts of esoteric names were applied to what he was doing. The whole time all I could think of was, "Does this stuff sound good?" Seriously. Isn't that all that matters? Do you need a PhD in some worthless degree program to tell you why something sticks in your brain? If so, maybe you're interested in something besides the music.
Here you begin to see the importance of the string arrangements on this journey. You can cram it if you don't like a cool string arrangement. I am a product of years of listening to Cat Stevens when he knew how to arrange an orchestra in the beginning, such as Matthew and Son. (The fact that you have to put the link in front of the full stop only strengthens Gritchka's argument and says "fuck you" to Mrs. Yates. I'm sorry, Mrs. Yates. I may have to relent. But not today. No, ma'am. Not today.) Where was I? Oh, yeah. Strings. Years of melting away when Robert Palmer would croon to the arrangements on albums like Pressure Drop. I'll leave out Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis just in case I soil my Depends with intense reverie. But if you look at a video of these young men working in a small room with a sort of chamber orchestra (link later; node tease), all I can say is that God knows our little acoustic jams would have gone better at that age with some beautiful betties from Julliard on the fiddles.
Gritchka would absolutely love a song about a topic such as this. This one gets a lot of discussion because of the "F" word. I am more interested in the drum work. This drummer, Chris Tomson, is one talented fellow. He is erudite, succinct, and passionate. But who gives a fuck, eh?
I think they call this stuff ska. As I said, I have no idea what that means. And I pride myself in my ignorance, so don't bother trying to explain it to me. I don't really like this song until it gets to the keyboard bridge. Then it reminds me of Bill Murray in the Life Aquatic movie. Music is very subjective, isn't it? So don't bother telling my why "Vampire Weekend" sucks. Or why Charles Mingus is a genius.
--"Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
They tone the ska down a bit here and I like the overall feel much better. I like my islanders subservient and bringing me blue drinks. That "A-Punk" sounded more like revolution. If I've paid good money to take a vacation to some tropical island, the last thing I want is a revolution. Have the good manners to wait until I've exited your locale. I fully realize you probably spat in my soup, but (frankly) it make it taste a little better. "Is your bed made / Is your sweater on?" I love that line. And Peter Gabriel gets a cameo! What could be better?
Ezra Koenig is the young man who sings lead vocals and plays guitar, and he is cute as a ladybug. Just watch him in this video. This song is happier than a Christmas carol. And if you want to see some of those young beauties from Juilliard or Columbia (where these kids went to school and met up), this would be a good place to start. Songs like this are pretty simple, but so is all pop music, eh? It's the way you put it together. And just listen to how this masterpiece is put together! Again, it's the drummer who is driving this stuff. Count the beat changes. See if he ever misses one of those beats. Does he? Nope. He may give the best rim job of any drummer I've ever heard. Shut up. I mean it. STFU.
Just in case you forgot that they were college kids. But listen to the drum work. Any missed beats? And he can do it live, too. I've seen him. As for the synth and keyboard work, it's a kid named Rostam Batmanglij. Perhaps there's some Eastern influence here, too? You think? The bass line in this song is pretty good, too. That's Chris Baio. Have I named them all now? Good. I would name the chicks on strings, but there's this ankle braclet.
In case you were wondering if the above comment about an Indian influence might be applicable. And, yet, is "Bryn" one of the whitest names you've ever heard? "Vampire Weekend" was dubbed the "whitest band" in the world by Christian Lander, the creator of the site "Stuff White People Like." And I say, "Hell, yes! I do!"
--"One (Blake's Got a New Face)"
And if you needed additional reminders that this was a band of rich, white kids, here's a tune about reconstructive surgery. Hate the game, not the player. Dislike the verse, love the hook.
--"I Stand Corrected"
You might start to get tired of how these songs begin. You might feel as if they start to all sound alike. But just wait until about one verse into this one and tell me this drummer isn't making you happy. And those strings. I cannot tell you how many times I played "Congratulations" from Paul Simon's eponymous album back when I was these kids' age. You will do some lover wrong in your life and you will feel awful about it. It needs to be said and it needs to be said correctly. This song comes as close as I've heard since back then. The subject matter may be less vital but the sentiment is imperative.
Just in case you have some of that ADD stuff and forgot that they were privileged college kids, here's a song about a classmate named "Walcott." It's Monopoly set to music, isn't it? Calliope music, no less. Just fun as hell. When I first got this album, this was the one song that I could not get enough of. Now I think I love "M79" more. But I could listen to any of these tracks at any time, and that's what makes a great album, my friend. When there is not one throwaway, you have a masterpiece.
--"The Kids Don't Stand A Chance"
My least favorite, but I'm sure they meant to say something meaningful. I think it might be a racial statement of some sort. They really should stay away from this crap and just have some fun. After all, there are those strings. And the girls who play them. Jesus. I might faint.