Vampire Weekend set for Edinburgh and Glasgow dates
Upon the release of their eponymous debut album almost exactly two years ago, it seemed possible to bracket Vampire Weekend as a novelty band. They were four preppy middle class New York kids taking the traditional sounds of impoverished African folk music, infusing it with arch, highbrow lyrics (the ‘Oxford Comma’ was just one unlikely subject matter for a song) and calling their own genre-of-one ‘Upper West Side Soweto’. It was either a stroke of genius or a somewhat snooty parody, not helped by the fact that their most obvious predecessor was Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
Two years and half a million US sales of the debut album later however, and any question that the quartet (Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson and Chris Baio) are anything but supremely talented has been put to bed. They’re not a parody, of course, just a group who are adventurous enough to explore sounds from a setting that’s about as far from their own collective background as is possible.
The recently-released second album Contra, its title at once a tribute and response to Joe Strummer’s Sandanista, hasn’t upset the style they’ve already established, mixing shades of reggae, Bollywood and Teutonic electronica to their already dense world music palette. It’s a step on for the band both artistically and commercially, selling 124,000 copies in its first week on sale in America, and reaching the top of the Billboard 200 album chart. Far from deserving any aspersions which might once have been cast upon their relatively privileged upbringing, it seems Vampire Weekend – Batmanglij and Koenig being the children of Iranian and Jewish immigrants, respectively – have expertly fused the sounds of multicultural America in a manner all can relate to.
Barrowland, Glasgow, Sat 13 Feb; Picture House, Edinburgh, Sun 14 Feb.