“Their music isn’t revolutionary,” says my friend of Vampire Weekend, “but it’s light and silly, and it makes me smile listening to little blips of it.” There is an impressive shock wave of fan-driven hype surrounding this Manhattan band, formed in 2006 by four students at Columbia University. Much of the hype was generated by Internet downloads and live gigs, and all of it was cooking well in advance of the release of their self-titled CD earlier this year. The music press has called their sound Afro/preppy/new wave. Vampire Weekend denies the preppy part of that tag, but for the record, the band modeled Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren apparel for their spread in Spin magazine.
Vampire Weekend is a second-generation’s interpretation of the bands that first made an industry of world music. Think Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, minus the save-the-world rock politics of the ’80s. In its place there is a warped kind of irreverence: “Can you stay up/ To see the dawn/ In the colors/ Of Benetton?”
Even with the inclusion of islander and Afro beats, Vampire Weekend’s music is sensually spare and pop-art simplistic. I’m reminded a bit of a William Eggleston photograph. He made sport of memorializing the everyday kind of middle-class things that go ignored. That’s Vampire Weekend, a collective focus on ordinary world-beat licks and old-pop hooks and riffs from the everyday world. The result is a mashup of the obvious and the simple, a music that sounds as if it may have sprung from some indigenous culture, blended with a strange Cape Cod sensibility. When held up to the light of public scrutiny, Vampire Weekend, like Eggleston, has proven that the ordinary can be funny and entertaining. It was a clever gamble, and it will be interesting to see how long it plays out.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND, The Casbah, Wednesday, March 19, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. Sold out.