Thu Jan 24 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
After the blog-driven hype around its self-released EP and subsequent single, backlash against Vampire Weekend’s first full-length seems inevitable. The unsurprising truth is that the album is neither disaster nor triumph, but simply what was once called a promising debut: an inventive but uneven amalgam of easily graspable song forms, unabashed cultural tourism and frontman Ezra Koenig’s precious demise-of-empire lyrics. If you’re not charmed by off-rhymes like “No excuse to be so callous / Dress yourself in bleeding madras,” this isn’t the record for you.
Vampire Weekend’s key stylistic trait is the incorporation of global musics into its familiar indie jangle. The crisp Afropop guitar leads and bright soukous and calypso rhythms won’t make anyone dump their Rough Guide files, but it’s refreshing to hear a young band referencing music that swings harder than Vashti Bunyan. (“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” indicates an awareness of the political arguments against such borrowings: “It seems so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too.”)The band’s collective Top-Siders lose some traction closer to home. Keyboardist-producer Rostam Batmanglij’s film-scoring background comes through on “M79,” but the straighter rockers “I Stand Corrected” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” (which points up Koenig’s vocal resemblance to Ray Davies) seem drab and unadorned. It’s also troubling that several of the strongest tracks are repeated from earlier releases. Still, if the band survives the attention, Vampire Weekend may someday be remembered as its Talking Heads: 77 to an eventual Remain in Light—or at least an Outlandos D’Amour to its (or Koenig’s) The Dream of the Blue Turtles.
Vampire Weekend plays Bowery Ballroom Tue 29 and Wed 30.