Curt called me at work today (which everyone should do, by the way, it's not like I'm ever working on anything that can't be put off for five minutes - say hi!) and, among other things, asked why I hadn't posted anything about Vampire Weekend's Contra. It turned out that we both had the same opinion on the record: meh.
And I don't think it's Vampire Weekend's fault. I don't think this is a bad album at all. I saw these guys down in Santa Cruz back in November, and all the new songs sounded good, and here they've been faithfully immortalized in digital form. I think they totally deserved their glowing Pitchfork review (though I was amazed that they got it, for purely political reasons).
I guess the problem could be with me. Vampire Weekend is a band that, for better or worse, signifies something to almost everyone: class warfare, the unwarranted appropriation of African culture, the new blog-rock music model, the vicious hype spiral caused by said model ... the list could go on and on. A lot of smart people have produced a lot of words on these subjects, and I don't really feel qualified or motivated to add any more. I'll leave the final word with Matt Ealer over at The Awl:
So. What to do? Well, as this is the internet, you complain. My views on the band Vampire Weekend have followed the following trajectory: pleasant acceptance, violent and self-righteous disdain, cynical musing, and, now, pleasant but somehow also cynical acquiescence. And I don't even listen to Vampire Weekend.That kind of manufactured cultural import can be exhausting, and wrapped up in all that significance, it's easy to miss the fact that Vampire Weekend is ... well, kind of a novelty band. They have a sound, and they execute it well, and ... I'm kinda done with it. As is Ilana, and Curt, and ... well, I don't really know anybody who's super-pumped about the band's April shows at the Fox in Oakland.
I don't want to get into bad revisionist history here, that I never really liked VW or that I always considered them a little too yelp-y. That's not true at all. I LOVED that first album, loved the "Ottoman" single, had a great time when I saw them at Popscene with Krunal and Adi. But, right now, today ... meh.
It's a good album. I thought they made the poor choice of leading with their two worst songs as singles ("Horchata" and "Cousins"), but everything else is pleasant, and "Giving Up the Gun," "Run," and even "California English" might sneak onto 100 Songs for 2010 once I get some perspective on the album. But, for now, I'd like to focus on the "Giving Up the Gun" music video ... because it features:
RZA as Shaolin ninja/chair umpire, Jake Gyllenhaal as drunk, Lil Jon speaking French, the racially symbolic all-white set. Also, people playing tennis in motorcycle helmets and singer Ezra Koenig looking a lot like Michael Cera.And why wouldn't it?