Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend’s new, self-titled album, out today on XL, is getting the rave reviews everyone expected it would get. Every publication out there is falling all over itself to celebrate the soukous and the references. Imagine, songs that sound vaguely like Afro-pop, created by the whitest band in the history of music! Even better, throw in the most obscure cultural references possible–here’s Lil Jon! here are kefirs and keffiyehs! look at me, I know what Dharamsala is!

Here’s the thing: I sort of like Vampire Weekend. I don’t mind bopping around to “Oxford Comma.” It’s just the kind of lively song that I might play to wake myself up in the morning. But guess what? Vampire Weekend is a pretty decent pop band. They aren’t a revelation. They’re not doing much new with the form. Even the snatches of African music have been incorporated into the same format with more skill (see Paul Simon, which every reviewer seems to reference, though none seem to care that he already wrung everything that was ever innovative out of the fusion).

What I think may be happening here is what happened with film critics and the movie Sideways. It was fine, sure, but they just couldn’t stop heaping praise on it, as though its director, Alexander Payne, was as good as Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa all rolled into one. Finally, the madness needed to stop, and A.O. Scott decided to call everyone on their shit. He wisely pointed out that film critics liked Sideways so much because they identified too strongly with its protagonist, whose obsession with wine echoed their own critical fixations. As far as Vampire Weekend is concerned, let’s think about who most music critics are. They are overeducated and, frankly, geeky, have wide-ranging tastes in music, and cultural references are, for them, kind of like candy. So when a band comes along that incorporates eclecticism (in the form of Afro-pop), collegiate nerdiness (they’re all Columbia grads and for heaven’s sake, look at what they’re wearing), and a limitless supply of knowledge about rooves and commas, every goddamn motherfucker is all over it.

Well, I call bullshit.