Does Vampire Weekend suck?

Treasure Island Music Festival: A critical mass of critical stabs
Half of Vampire

In terms of the Internet music hype cycle, seven months is an eternity. So while last winter the controversy surrounding Vampire Weekend — four mild Columbia alums who make a crowd-pleasing brand of Afro-pop punk — threatened to hold the Web hostage, more recently the discussions of privilege and charges of cultural appropriation that marked the backlash have all but disappeared. The quartet of Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Christopher Tomson had managed, albeit briefly and in coded terms, to get indie rockers talking about two subjects they, and Americans in general, tend to talk around: race and class. In anticipation of the group's performance at Treasure Island, we wanted to recap some critics' takes on the band's approach, to get people thinking about the cultural roots of the recent Docksider resurgence.


AFRO-POP CO-OPTERS? The dean of American rock critics — Xgau to you — is unusually crotchety here, drawing on his extensive knowledge of African music to take down every style writers link the band to.

IVY LEAGUERS? Xgau acknowledges it, sure, but he's got a lot of misconceptions about Afro-pop to correct. He does, however, anticipate the "psychological mechanism" that underpins the whole backlash. Despite everything, Afro-pop sounds happy, and the young are predisposed against upbeat music for its perceived shallowness, whether it comes from the global south or is an effect of Ivy League privilege.

GRACELAND COMPARISON? He drops the G-bomb only to note its ubiquity, then goes on to point out that the South African mbaqanga the Paul Simon album draws on is "much heavier than anything in Vampire Weekend unless you count their punky stuff, which isn't African at all."

THE JAMS? The piece is really more of a rockcrit corrective than a consideration of VW's music itself — here and in his later Consumer Guide review of the combo's debut, he lets Pitchfork's Scott Plagenhof fill us in: "off-kilter, upbeat guitar pop," with "not just the touches of African pop but the willingness to use space and let the songs breathe a bit" and "detail-heavy, expressive" lyrics.


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