“Spin” Enters The Vampire Weekend Debate

anono | February 22, 2008 10:00 am

And now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! After the click-through, he examines the most recent issue of Spin:

An aside in the cover story in the March 2008 Spin makes a lofty claim for the band profiled therein. “Vampire Weekend are,” writes Andy Greenwald with subtle portent, ” the first band ever to be shot for a Spin cover before they’d released an album.”

Huh! So it’s a big deal that VW was photographed for a Spin cover before its debut was “officially” released, despite the fact that the issue is on sale a few weeks after said debut appeared? Wouldn’t such portent be appropriate if a Vampire Weekend cover story in Spin came out before the album was not only not released, but hadn’t been finished? Keyboard Krybaby thinks it would be, but a cover story in a big-league entertainment publication still must promote an “official” release: Vampire Weekend’s minders would doubtless not stand for the cover story appearing sooner than the album’s release. One exponent of old media must still scratch the back of another.

Still, it’s clear what Spin‘s role is to be now. Rolling Stone will grant covers to artists that appeal to teens, tweens, their parents and in some cases grandparents. Until further notice, Blender will proffer images of artists likely to inspire many men to start a’strokin’. But Spin is now the crucible into which blawg-rawkahs enter the big leagues. For instance, the mag put Franz Ferdinand front and center three years ago, when its aforementioned rivals likely decided that the band’s appeal was limited to the twentysomethings who even then had largely deserted print media. Heedless of this basic fact, the powers that be at Spin seems to have concluded that the mag will be the premiere print media whistle-stop for indie-rock bands once the blog diaspora is done with them. And that’s an honorable purpose.

As for the story itself: Greenwald, a former staffer who wrote Nothing Feels Good, the definitive study of twerps crying like little bitches, spends a bit of time exploring the current calculus for discovering indie rock bands that has benefited Vampire Weekend. He interviews New Yorker ‘fro-sporter and Tipping Point pundit Malcolm Gladwell (who believes that “we’re in danger of discovering people before they are worthy of being discovered”) and Matador honcho Gerard Cosloy (“one favorable notice on Stereogum can be instantly undermined by one or two sarcastic, pseudonymous commentators”) among others, and in doing so does a nice job explaining this paradigm for readers who may be unaware of it–KK supposes that there must be, y’know, ten such readers.

W/R/T the band, its genesis and how it appropriates Afropop: Greenwald seems to have found frontman Ezra Koenig somewhat entitled and smug. Apparently, Koenig counts among his past musical projects a Columbia University-based rap duo called L’Homme Run, from which the tunes “Interracial Dating” and “Pizza Party” emanated (full disclosure: for one evening, an 18-year-old KK was the DJ for a rap group consisting of his fellow white teenagers; the resulting songs were very likely even more banal than Koenig’s). Greenwald also reports that Koenig’s semi-apocryphal VW manifesto specified that no t-shirts would be part of the band’s presentation and that Johnny Marr’s townshippy guitar tone via “This Charming Man” would be venerated. He also notes Koenig’s diffident manner throughout–although Koenig might have been on his guard around a member of “the big bad media” that his band mistrusted enough to largely avoid until the past six months.

“…having wrestled with issues of authenticity and cultural appropriation as a deracinated fourth-generation Ivy Leaguer,” writes Greenwald perceptively, “(Koenig’s) concluded that he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he wants. It’s charming, but it’s also indicative of the sort of confidence that only exists in the very young, the very successful, or both. Because he cannot imagine any resistance or skepticism to what he’s doing, none seem to exist.” Koenig seems to believe that his band is immune to any challenges of colonialism: “that debate has already happened. We’re in a context that’s coming after instances of people stealing from each other.”

KK will step in here to say that, barring college boys’ “amusing” takes on hip-hop, he’s a big fan of most examples of musical miscegenation in the history of humankind. But he regrets that Koenig is mistaken if he thinks he is free of all considerations regarding his band’s context and how it may relate to cultural colonialism. That particular debate is not over, whether Koenig thinks it should be or not. KK will also add that he likes a few of the band’s songs and thus will suspend his ironclad rule that any performer who considers cable-knit sweaters and boat shoes appropriate onstage attire should be thrown out of show business forever.

And now, KK’ll just touch on the following, none of which require extended verbiage…

• In an otherwise not-precisely-needed Front of Book trend piece on dirty rock videos you can see on the Device You Are Currently Gazing At, we learn that Gene Simmons is an investor in ngtv.com, which provides a lot of said videos. As of 4:16pm, on Feb. 21, 2008, the clip in which Simmons soporifically mates with a large-breasted woman was not available therein, but it is here.

• There used to be a fanzine called FatGregDulli. Now, in a quick interview with the former Afghan Whig and his Gutter Twins partner Mark Lanegan, we can see that, despite what may have been the best efforts of photographer Tom Fowlks to blend Dulli’s black suit into shadow, the zine’s title is more apt than ever.

• In a “local scene/fashion roundup” titled “Chicago Ill” (nice job, headline writer!), we learn of Flosstradamus, the Cool Kids, Dude N’ Nem and Kid Sister, who each, according to the piece’s subhed, have “a sense of fun not seen since rap’s golden age.” Someone in Spin‘s braintrust seems to think that hip-hop has been nothing but a nihilistic trudge through the morgue, which KK thinks is a bit much. The piece is penned by Jessica Hopper, the Chicago-boosting publicist-turned-provocateur-turned-(evidently)-writer/not-journalist.

• KK has not heard REM’s new album, Accelerate. But he does think that Josh Modell’s assessment of the album, which takes the marquee spot in this issue’s reviews section, hits so many “they’ve returned to their roots and thank gawd for that” beats that it almost reads like a David Fricke hosanna for Rolling Stone.