Mar 25, 2008, 09:46AM

Vampire Weekend Farts, NY Times Applauds

Overhyped indie band receives gushing praise from the mainstream media, but they don't stand up to scrutiny. From The Phoenix.

Between Largehearted Boy and The New York Times, it seems like everyone in the world is too busy sacrificing small animals on their own personal alters to Vampire Weekend to do anything else but burn incense and pray. Sometimes people like Vampire Weekend so much that they write about their very solemn music in very solemn terms, like how their songs are “terse clockwork constructions that equate cooperation with mutual avoidance.” Okay, New York Times, if by “terse clockwork constructions” you mean two uncomplicated chords, and by “equate cooperation with mutual avoidance” you mean repeat those chords for the duration of one entire song and vary them only slightly on each subsequent track, then, sure, Vampire Weekend’s songs are undoubtedly “terse clockwork constructions that equate cooperation with mutual avoidance.”

But somehow, I have my doubts that Vampire Weekend is as talented, thoughtful, or sophisticated as all this media attention makes them seem, especially with lyrics like “I wake up / My shoulder’s cold / I’ve got to leave here / Before I go / I pull my shirt on,” and the more I hear, the more Pitchfork’s 8.8 rating starts to seem like it may just rival the 0.8 rating they gave The Boy With The Arab (because even in 1998 I was the coolest cat around and read tons of stuff about music, and I totally mean this in a completely serious non-post-ironic way, obviously) for the most baseless, short-sighted piece of writing that website has ever published (which is saying a lot, considering that we’re talking about the bane of all human evil and terrible judgment right now, so take me seriously for just a little while and then we can go back to fun and games and bad jokes).

Though Pitchfork’s nocturnal emission of a review over Vampire Weekend’s debut CD should have been a clear and definitive sign to everyone that this band is just not very good, the entire world has, apparently, missed the small point that every child who watched Lamb Chop probably made better music with an empty tissue box, a cardboard paper towel and a few rubber bands than these guys can make with their real instruments. The songs are boring, repetitive, uninspired, immature and untalented. Not only do these guys play the most commonplace instruments you could possibly combine in one band, but they even don’t know how to play them well. And though you might expect a group of four Columbia alumni to at least write some moderately creative, poetic or literary lyrics, they cannot, apparently, come up with anything better than “Take the chapstick / Put it on your lips / Crack a smile / Adjust my tie.”

There is absolutely nothing different or memorable about Vampire Weekend (and please don’t spout some bullshit about old Western African pop influences, because their sound is, really, nothing special). Both musically and lyrically, they are utterly generic, overly simplistic, mindlessly immature, completely unskilled and entirely uncreative. The first time I listened to their self-titled debut album, I spent the first three songs trying to figure out who I thought they sounded like until I finally realized that the only reason they seemed so familiar was because they sound like every single other pop group that exists right now. When I told a friend what I was writing my column about and played “Oxford Comma” for them to hear, they had the same reaction of “Oh, oh, wait, do you know who this sounds like? It’s like … um … hold on,” words that so closely mirrored my own initial reaction to the music and confirmed, to me at least, how markedly generic Vampire Weekend actually is.

And that, more than anything, is what Vampire Weekend is — markedly generic. Though their music may not be the most jarring, terrible collection of songs, there is nothing about this band that would ever merit the sort of praise they’ve been receiving. While music blogs and online resources do facilitate and expand the circulation of new music to previously unattainable and unimaginable lengths, the competition between web sources to not fall behind the rest or miss out on “the next big thing” can lead to an almost self-sustainable, unstoppable chain of unmerited praise and inflated hype. One prominent and popular blog gives a mediocre band a glowing review, and within just a few hours infinite other well-respected blogs are updating their own websites, praising a band that doesn’t deserve praise just because a voice that is perceived as authoritative singled out this one band as remarkable and because they want to keep up with the crowd. When one group starts to be singled out as different and better than the rest, their name travels so rapidly that within just a few weeks, they’ve already established a reputation and start to attract attention by name recognition alone.

While these online music sources do reach out to hundreds of thousands of people and expose them to new, alternative music, they also, often enough, contribute to the build up of the insatiable hype machine — information travels quickly enough, blogs are too interdependent and rely too much on the opinions of their affiliates and music websites care too much about their reputations for being able to recognize only the best music out of a mess of bad demo tapes for unfounded hype to not be an undesired byproduct. With the praise surrounding Vampire Weekend, that is precisely the case — there’s not much more to this band than unfounded internet hype.


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