Jan 08

Wampire Beak Hen (d)

FT14 comments • 469 views

Matt DC captures lots of why I like Vampire Weekend (and I really really like them) in this ILX post

Nitsuh does a great job with the Pitchfork review.

Not covered in either: someone on the ILX thread (who doesn’t like them) asks if it’s reminding likers of their college days. Yes, totally! This is the “preppiness” which – being unsteeped in US culture – I can’t hear directly, I guess. All the lines about staircases, campus and so on totally make me think of Summer terms at Queens’ College, Oxford. But then at the same time the specific touchpoints – placenames, labels, slang – of preppiness give the record a kind of exotic thrill-appeal too. So they’ve found a way to resell my own privilege back to me without me finding it obnoxious! Hurrah! (I think.)

(Though obnoxiousness be damned, if four limber young fellas out there want to form a band called The Wykehamists to play “Surrey Gamelan” and they need a manager or creative consultant, I’m game. If Robin C’s busy, that is.)

In the spirit of recycling, here’s some initial impressions of mine, filched from old posts from a private message board:

“the more I listen (and I’ve been listening a LOT – I’m somewhat surprised at how much this record has grabbed me) the 80s comparison* that makes sense isn’t Paul Simon or certainly not Talking Heads but Orange Juice. Same knowing play with elegance, same slightly clumsy reaching for new influences, most of all the same gorgeous blitheness. So maybe the pendulum of influence is about to swing from post-punk to new pop (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease). Also like Orange Juice the more I listen to them the more I hear a them emerging rather than a collision of styles – the indiepop and the Afropop and those snooty strings which I guess are the sonic touchpoints for their ‘preppiness’.** If indie is the new mainstream (crass shorthand for much bigger argument) then in my view a lot of interesting stuff is going to come from bands who accept this as the terms of engagement and the natural way of things. I love how well-thought-out VW’s gimmicks seem, even if I idly wonder how they’re going to get a second record out of them.

*I dunno about 00s comparisons – never knowingly heard the Walkmen

**I got home from work tonight and there was some very posh arpeggiated stringsy theme tune on the TV which I recognised but having listened to this album all day all I could think was “Oh that sounds like a Vampire Weekend string part”. And – rather marvellously – it was the theme to collegiate quiz show ‘University Challenge’!”


  1. 1
    CarsmileSteve on 28 Jan 2008 #

    wait, how are you watching university challenge half an hour before it’s on?

    i bought it from HMV this morning (i can’t remember the last time i did this, but i wasn’t sure when i’d next get to a record shop) and am listening to it for the FIRST TIME right now.

  2. 2
    Pete on 28 Jan 2008 #

    All sounds good, I expect an update Steve.

    Oh and Tom, if you were at the same college as me, yr apostrophe is in the wrong place!

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Jan 2008 #

    possible/inevitable conflict between “natural way of things” and “well thought out” alert.

    also rather depressing that New Pop as influence can only seemingly be acknowledged when legitimised by white boys with guitars.

  4. 4
    Tom on 29 Jan 2008 #

    One of them is non-white! (Though he doesn’t play the guitar).

    No conflict at all (ideally) – thinking stuff out as a natural impulse when starting a pop project.

    I see New Pop influences all around me but I think the market is, yes, more likely to acknowledge them in the form of VW.

  5. 5
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Jan 2008 #

    As opposed to the people who have been advancing New Pop over the last dozen years or so – most of whom happen to be black and/or female and largely guitar-free (even with Xenomania you always think of a photograph of a guitar whenever they use the instrument rather than the thing itself).

  6. 6
    Tom on 29 Jan 2008 #

    Also I’m specifically thinking of the indie market here – obviously post-punk was hardly absent as an influence in music before being “rediscovered” by guitar groups a few years ago, so it’s more that I’m hoping for a shift to new pop within the indie nation (though as a response to entryism rather than a means to it).

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Jan 2008 #

    Does the “indie market” really still exist, though, in all bar name?

    Since VM are on the XL label I’m assuming they are in part being subsidised by Adele.

    (topic-unrelated but still necessary PS to XL: why Adele over Annie?)

  8. 8
    CarsmileSteve on 29 Jan 2008 #

    um, i think this might be the best debut album i’ve heard since “if yr feeling sinister” (yes yes, whatever)… i’m hearing quite a lot of bellysebby in it, but then i would, wouldn’t i?

    also HURRAY for 30 minute alBUMs

  9. 9
    CarsmileSteve on 29 Jan 2008 #

    also, the track that APetridis refered to as “like ski sunday” is clearly like barnacle bill, ie the blue peter theme (pre-mike oldfield versh)

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 29 Jan 2008 #

    I think the VW album is the best VW debut album I’ve heard since Virginia Wade’s Never Mind The Ball Cocks.

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 30 Jan 2008 #

    Not Victoria Williams, then? Or Vow Wow?

  12. 12
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Jan 2008 #

    Not even Val Woonican (See me – Ed.).

  13. 13
    Matt DC on 1 Feb 2008 #

    The 30-minute thing really boosts the whole addictive nature of this album, it exemplifies the cliche of listening to a record all the way through and then immediately starting again from track one.

  14. 14
    Matt DC on 1 Feb 2008 #

    (It doesn’t particularly remind me of my college days, but then again my college days were mostly spent vituperatively railing against the UK equivalent of ‘preppy’ signifiers in pretty much all their forms.)

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