Justify My Love: Submitting to a Vampire Weekend obsession
Okay we all have some skeletons in our closet, shit we dig -- be it music, movies or television shows -- that we'd just as soon that nobody else knew about. Guilty pleasures is what most people term these sort of inclinations. Well, here at Backbeat, there's no shame in our game -- assuming, of course, you can Justify My Love, which just happens to be the name of our latest feature. For this edition, Bree Davies attempts to explain why she's so taken with this Vampire Weekend band.
As a music scribe, an almost thirty-year-old individual, and Western woman, I feel wrong in my acceptance of Vampire weekend. Actually, it is past acceptance -- it is a love, a devotion, a mild obsession with a band I pretended to hate until 2008.
Ezra Koenig's smarmy coos were too smooth to my ears. His Paul Simon vocal and lyrical mimicry was annoyingly obvious, and beyond that, the blend of strings and synthesized sounds, softened tribal beats and boyish, chattering back-up vocals felt like a high school rendition of Graceland.
Who was buying this college boy-sings-praise/disdain-for-college-girl shit? I wasn't. As Vampire Weekend and Tokyo Police Club were making similar strides in 2006 and 2007, wandering the internet label-less while shouldering virtual piles of music critic praise, my money was on the latter. I loved Tokyo Police Club and refused to let anyone within a hundred feet of me listen to Vampire Weekend.
But like my great internal debate in the late '90s over who was going to be bigger -- Third Eye Blind or Matchbox 20 -- I was wrong. (For the record, even though 3EB experienced a perplexing resurgence in the last few years, Matchbox 20 was a multiple Grammy winner and overwhelmingly more popular with the radio-listening public.)
Tokyo Police Club signed to Saddle Creek, toured with Angels and Airwaves and Weezer, and by all accounts, is still doing well. But Vampire Weekend took off. By the time its first album was actually released in 2008, the band was everywhere. The band's music was being played in Bed, Bath and Beyond and showing up on the Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Twilight soundtracks, and gaining upward mobility on the Billboard charts in the US and the UK. Mass popularity of a band has never swayed my taste either direction, and, I still hated Vampire Weekend.
Then, out of nowhere and inexplicably, my tastes changed. I let my guard down for no plausible reason, and the band that resembled the guys who used to pick on me in Catholic school came running into my heart. Listening to Vampire Weekend now felt like the first time I heard Metro Station's self-titled release -- once I decided the record was enjoyable, there was no turning back.
My ears combed every harmony, consuming Koenig's nonchalant cadence, soaking up his stories of snagging a freshman girl's virginity and sneaking out of dorm rooms after secret love affairs unfolded. The manufactured harpsichord and violin sounds crashed in unison as Peter Gabriel and Lil' Jon references slid by on lines about Cape Cod bars and lobster claws. Yes, a pop band that sang about lobsters had become the sole focus of my attention.
In January, Vampire Weekend released Contra, and it stands to be the only album I've purchased on both vinyl and CD this year. I don't even buy CDs anymore. I just wanted to have the paper image in my hands of that popped-collar beauty staring back at me. Like a preschooler obsessed with a Barney VHS, Contra was on repeat, not leaving my car stereo for three months straight.
I reveled in Koenig's tales of romancing uptown girls on subway tracks and between bodega shelves, admiring rich Los Angeles girls with selective tastes in toothpaste, and rhyming lines involving horchata and Aranciata. He had moved on from dowdy East coasties to tank top wearing Western ones, from regional shellfish to fancy Italian soda and Mexican rice drinks, and I was still hooked.
In March, when Vampire Weekend came to the Ogden Theatre, I realized that it wasn't just me who had Koenig fever: sixteen-year-old girls, backward baseball cap-wearing bros, twinks, and stoned soccer moms alike had it, too. Vampire Weekend's music indiscriminately infected anyone who would listen, and I found little solace in screaming along to "Diplomat's Son" with a guy in a soccer jersey playing air drums.
But what could I do? I love Vampire Weekend for no reason at all, and its time I quit being ashamed of it.
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