April 20, 2010
Vampire Weekend: Playing it Safe
I was greatly disappointed not to see one cape or pair of fake vampire fangs at the sold-out Vampire Weekend show at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Considering the Afro/preppy/new-wave sound of this bright and quirky band, I expected more sense of humor in the audience. Of course, I think I expected more from the band as well who seemed to play it all very safe. VW is currently considered one of the hippest things going, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve heard this Afro/preppy/new-wave sound before. The combination sounds rather like the tame pop music of the 1980s: ABC, Split Endz, The English Beat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, a little mindless pop music is often a good time and VW does it quite well.
VW makes a quite a big deal about being influenced by African music and Paul Simon’s 1986 classic Graceland, which prominently features So. African musicians; VW also makes quite a big deal about the fact that the band members all met while attending Ivy-League Columbia University on New York’s Upper West Side (their music has been called Upper West Side Soweto, they also have been called the whitest band around). You would think the frequent references to Columbia would mean they are preppy ( they do wear the Oxfords and boat shoes) and brainy, but still, the music is quite accessible. In fact, it is their easy, laid-back attitude that makes their sound so much more appealing than bands who so desperately try to impress and grab your attention, like the Decemberists or Fleet Foxes, for example. However, I think the unassuming, clean-cut, clever, indie pop appeal of Vampire Weekend could also lead to their eventual fizzing and fading away. Three days on from the concert and my impressions of the show are already dissipating.
Playing it safe is good for summering in the Hamptons, sipping Sea Breezes while watching sailboats in the Sound. VW would be perfect for a day on the Cape, a jog on the shoreline, but personally, I prefer a bit more edge and bit more adventurous spirit in my indie rock. Hopefully, Vampire Weekend can build on the huge success of their first two albums by taking a few more risks. Otherwise, I fear they may end up a one-trick pony.