The Top Four Sentences From Yesterday’s Vampire Weekend Profile That Made Me Vow To Never Read A Story About Them Again

As previously reported, both Jess and I think that the debut album by the buzzed-to-death New York band Vampire Weekend is perfectly fine. (Possibly of note: Every time I listen to their album, I experience an Orange Juice craving about six tracks in.) But coverage of the band–from its Rolling Stone accolades to all those blog posts–has been absolutely nauseating, to the point where it actually makes me kind of hate the idea of words being used to described music, or at least musicians. I hit some sort of breaking point yesterday, thanks to the “A Night Out With” profile of the band in the New York Times Sunday Styles. In its 489 words, it manages to hit on everything that drives me bonkers about the Columbia-bred band’s preppy-smarmy signifiers, and it spends more time talking about the band’s hype express than about the music that started that train a-rolling. After the jump, the four sentences that almost had me throwing my paper across the room!

4. Describing its sound as “Upper West Side Soweto”… OK, OK, I know that this is old. But any readers out there who thought that the above construction was courtesy of some hacky rock critic on a Robitussin bender, take note: They describe themselves this way. At least let Robert Christgau do the christening for you, dudes!

3. Mr. Koenig, who recently quit his day job as an English teacher, went on to explain that the place was formerly known as the Mill Luncheonette. “That’s why they call it the Mill Korean,” Mr. Batmanglij said. Such intellectual showmanship shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with Vampire Weekend — and is anyone not these days? Sigh. Sigh. But wait, there’s more:

2. Mr. Koenig: “Did you know that New Jersey is the capital of the flavor industry?” Translation: Did you know that I finally finished Fast Food Nation this week?

1. Hardly keeping vampire hours, Mr. Koenig, the only member who still lives uptown, bade farewell to his Brooklyn-bound mates around 10 p.m. But not before reminding them of their plans for the following day: a field trip to Lacoste. But don’t get too used to seeing them in your store, Lacosties–once those Best New Music bucks start rolling in, they’re going to be all-Polo, all the time!

Know-It-Alls on a Riff [NYT]
Vampire Weekend – A-Punk [YouTube]

  • jambajim

    ta na na NO!

  • J DTZR

    Still undecided about the music, but that video rips off, oops, I mean, pays homage to both They Might Be Giants and Talking Heads.

  • brownham

    I was thinking Gap

  • SuperUnison

    It amazes me how much beer widens the gulf between how much I like The Hold Steady and how much I hate Vampire Weekend.

    @girlhappy: Does that mean you were also spoiled to the point of obliviousness?

    @G3K: Thank you. They literally wear the fact that they are soulless, trust-fund assholes on their sleeves.

    @gregcoff: A computer and a willing test audience can make addictive melodies (there are seriously only so many catchy progressions) and great pop arrangements (based on the law of averages) probably do happen every day. It’s just that Vampire Weekend has lucked into the right combination of those things, competent performances, a “safe” image, and a string of pretension-flattering bullshit that has seen them elevated. They literally represent postmodernism winning the war in all the shittiest ways and I’m very glad that they will probably be victims of their own disposability. I’m thinking #31 on P4k’s “Best of 08″ list, and probably with a little bit of snideness thrown in (Maybe something like “From back when we thought a the democrats WEREN’T going to figure out a way to loose the 08′ election” or something like that.)

  • Swankster

    So let me get this straight, we are now supposed to consider about what Pitchfork is going to say 2 years from now when VW releases their follow-up record?

    It’s official. Clocking this a clusterfuck of dumb @ 1:33 AM 1/29/08. R.I.P. inane diatribes.

  • mhulot

    @Swankster: Boo! Welcome to the clusterfuck, Swankster. Since when does anybody who reads this site care what Pitchfork thinks, other than as a sort of interesting indication of blog-era hipness of any given band? Consider whatever you want to consider r.e. Pitchfork, I’m saying the novelty of Vampire Weekend is wearing off fast. And blog-era tastemakers often eat their own after the shine’s worn off, no?

  • gregcoff

    @SuperUnison: Okay. First things first. If you think a computer can truly produce a catchy pop melody, by all means forward me that software and I will quit my day job. Srsly, it just does not work that way. Never has, probably never well, and I won’t back down on that point until the Billboard Chart (or Hype Machine, for that matter) proves me wrong. Second, great pop arrangements. Whatever, it’s a subjective phrase, you can argue it one way or the other – though the “law of averages” really makes no sense in this case. After all, there are six trillion people on Earth, it stands to reason we’d get a classic album every day, but we don’t. But again, whatever, subjective. Third. Will someone please tell me what is so “safe” about Vampire Weekend??! “Safe” means within the boundaries of the norm, and the norm for rock (indie or otherwise) is shaggy haircuts, tight weathered jeans, nerd glasses, distorted guitars, occasional electronic embellishment, yadda yadda. VW is so far outside the boundaries of what “safe” is that I just have to laugh whenever people use that term. “Safe” is The National. “Safe” is Cold War Kids. “Safe” is The Shins. If you think it’s annoying that they wear Polo and take elements of West African music, fine, but don’t claim that it’s “safe” because it’s everything but. Fourth, will someone also please explain to me where it says that Vampire Weekend are all rich spoiled trust fund babies? They all went to Columbia…so what? Not everyone who goes to Columbia is from New Canaan. Fifth, if the strongest antithesis to Vampire Weekend you can muster is The Hold Steady you’ve already shot yourself in the foot and I didn’t even need to stay up until 1 AM writing this.

  • mhulot

    @maura: Should’ve caught that Pitchfork link, oops, but what I meant to imply was that whenever their second album comes out (2009? 2010?) Pitchfork will have, you know, reconsidered their opinion of the band. Big supporters jumping on the backlash pile, coincidentally maintaining cred, etc. It was really kinda clever in my head before I tried to explain it to anyone else.

    Also @Gregcoff: VW *sounds* like privilege, that’s why the assumption that the music is coming from a place of privilege. Radio-friendly upbeat, energetic pop and fun, but witness the danger of blog-era hype, such that even sorta supporters such as myself react to inflated claims and pretentions.

  • Swankster


    “And blog-era tastemakers often eat their own after the shine’s worn off, no?”

    Umm…maybe? If they start sucking I guess. I don’t necessarily buy into this mythic direction of the blogosphere, or at least not the alleged unified voice it speaks when taste-making. (Partly because I don’t count blogs that rehash other blogs or post the hypem top 20 artists with such insightful commentary like – “I totally love this!”)

    Similar to the opinions some have about the MSM being controlled by an editorial cabal, my hand is forced in calling bullshit!

  • Anonymous

    @gregcoff: Maybe you should just accept the fact that not everybody thinks this band is as great as you think they are.

    And leave Cold War Kids out of this. They’re much more ambitious than VW, and they’re much nicer to boot.

  • gregcoff

    @slowburn: I totally accept that. As I’ve made clear, what I find nauseating is the mountains of ire heaped on them for completely arbitrary and often nonsensical reasons. If you take them out for a spin and you don’t like them, fair enough. But all this cultural rapist stuff and all the rockist condescension…I just expected a more reasoned take from the Idolator crowd.

    I mean no disrespect to Cold War Kids, National, or the Shins. I like them all. I just see them as ultimately being closer to the norm than VW.

  • SuperUnison

    @gregcoff: “Safe” is being a trite, contrived exercise in reappropriation where the goal is to make yourself acceptable to a wide swath of people first while everything else is secondary. Being generous is one thing, failing to get over the approval-for-it’s own sake, Jr.-High-Theater impulse that seems to govern VW is way worse.

    Also, they’re getting by in New York like it aint no thang and they come off as rather smug about it. I’d be surprised if they could even tell you how much their own rent costs.

    It’s also interesting that you bring up The National, especially since I’d posit them as a better antithesis to VW than THS. (Who happened to be on at the moment, but are a separate arguement.) I find The National electrifying because they don’t feel safe or static. If anything, they bring me into confrontations with some of my worst fears about myself as a human being. There’s a shiver of recognition there that I’ve found in maybe a half-dozen other records since I first started taking music seriously. They evoke moments that fucking ache like real life. On a formal level, I love the arrangements (More restrained than a lot of what I usually like, but excellent for their economy of motion.) and I think that the lyrics are masterful in their use of repetition and detail. VW sing about a world I only know third hand as if it’s wallpaper. Witless irony and self-satisfied in jokes win for their own sake. There’s no impetus to transcend the formal imperatives of the pop song, let along to transcend the next crest of the hype cycle.

  • disinterested 3rd party

    @gregcoff: Agreed, if people have a problem with this because of the appropriation african musical motifs please stop listening to rock, jazz, r&b, country…..

    I’m preparing my letter to Led Zepplin right now.

  • disinterested 3rd party

    @SuperUnison: I like The National record a lot too. But it’s not the kind of thing you put on before heading out on Saturday night.

  • G3K

    Clearly the writer found them to be insufferable as human beings, and that manifests itself in their music.

    @Jasonbob7: Jack Johnson was actually the first frame of reference I thought of, too. That same sort of privileged-comfort vibe, perfect for drinking Corona Lights and wearing terrible clothing. (I don’t think it’s wrong to fault us for hating VW’s aesthetics since they so proudly celebrate them. So deriding the preppiness is fair game IMO.)

  • Anonymous

    everyone says “paul simon” as a reference point–I don’t hear it. I hear “Haircut 100″. And hey, they’ve got the sweater thing in common….

  • Roberta

    It's sad but true that it's more and more unlikely for a good band of any genre to “make it” these days unless they come from money. Let's face it, a band can never achieve vampire weekend, stroke or yeah yeah yeah status without the cash flow and life of leisure background. How did this happen? There are so many vital bands floating under the radar that will never be noticed. The wealthy will always find success and get richer as the poor will always remain on the cusp and unappreciated.