Like a Sanguine Saturday In the Middle of the Week
The only objectionable thing about Vampire Weekend is the complete lack of any objectionable qualities. The quartet of clean-cut Columbia University grads plays crisp, cheerful pop music with hints of African polyrhythms that only the most joyless (read: backlash-loving bloggers) could dislike. Each band member could qualify as "the cute one," and they thanked their Rock & Roll Hotel audience after nearly every song Wednesday night.
The avalanche of positive press surrounding Vampire Weekend's debut album resulted in an uncomfortably sold-out show -- but even the lack of breathing room couldn't suffocate the good vibes. If the performance wasn't exactly a coronation of the Next Great Band, it was certainly a confirmation that songs on the band's debut really are that good.
Opener "Mansard Roof" set the tone, with gently rumbling drums, warm keyboard tones and sunny vocals from singer Ezra Koenig. Earworm "A-Punk" showcased some ska and Police influences while "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and "One (Blake's Got a New Face)" proved that the band's "Graceland"-inspired numbers weren't mere studio creations.
Vampire Weekend saved the best for last with the outstanding one-two punch of "Oxford Comma" and "Walcott," a pair of bouncy, impossibly catchy tunes that would sound just fabulous blasting over the campus quad. The lyrical themes explored in the songs -- punctuation, diction, escaping Cape Cod -- might come off as pretentious to some, but for Vampire Weekend it was simply a sincere example of singing what they know. If anyone else sang "Hyannisport is a ghetto/Out of Cape Cod tonight" it would be cringe-worthy, but with Vampire Weekend you simply can't help but sing along.
-- David Malitz