Living with…Vampire Weekend…for a week
Here be dragons
Before singing the praises of Vampire Weekend’s latest album I would like to take a brief tour of quite why bands opt for names verging on the mythical – surely, there must be a common theme here inspired by our rich literary heritage…
Why would you go in search of the mythical for a band name? Why not have a sensible name like The Beatles or U2?
OK, so how do you turn to the mythical for inspiration…well, take Vampire Weekend. One day lead singer decided to make a vampire film in his teens only to give up two days later. Hence, when looking for a band name he came up with Vampire Weekend. Hence, that’s a dull story.
What about other mythical bands?
Take GOBLIN. The Italian horror rock band of the 70s they originally considered the band name Oliver as a route to success.
Then changed their name to The Cherry Five. Unsurprisingly success didn’t follow for that name either. And then they went all prog horror rebranding themselves with the more appropriate moniker Goblin and sure enough success followed. So, myth as a blatant attempt to make some money.
Scaling down a little bit for our next band, we come to The Pixies. An American alt rock band of the mid 80s with moderate success in Europe they surely had new age leanings to select such a name?
Allegedly, lead guitarist Santiago stuck his finger in a dictionary and it landed on the word Pixies and he liked how it looked. A random act that could have turned out so much worse, but turned up mythical.
Dragging ourselves to the present and the perplexing question must be why the Imagine Dragons? Tolkein fans? Apparently not, it will have to remain a mystery as it is an anagram that will allegedly offend the band’s respective families and for the sake of their ongoing happiness must forever stay that mystery. So an anagram…
The best of the lot is equally a mystery and obvious, namely the brilliant Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs which is not as you’d expect a band. But a rather posh British son of a choir master called Orlando Tobias Edward Higginbottom, in which case the reason is almost irrelevant – if you’re going to be a cool dance act you’re probably better off with anything apart from Orlando or Tobias. He wouldn’t get to mix with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
So, is there a pattern here? I had imagined a gathering of Tolkein-heads and New Age fans inspired by our literary heritage. Instead we have random acts in a dictionary, an anagram for something more ominous and a rather dull story about a failed school project.
Oh well, on to the music
Modern Vampires of the City
Two years ago, this happened to me before. A new album that grabbed me by the throat unexpectedly and said “YESSS!!!! I am excellent and you will live with me for weeks and love it”…on that occasion it was Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials. This time on my second trip out with a Vampire Weekend album another love afair has started.
So who are Vampire Weekend? A New York band starting in the mid-noughties who acquired a strange name for their sound – Upper West Side Soweto – being very much American but at the same time also evoking a South African flavour. Add to that their lyrics often have a strong Jewish tone and you have eclectism with a capital E.
My first encounter was their previous outing Contra, and in particular the hypnotic White Sky which seemed to have walked straight off the disk of Paul Simon’s Graceland and in to the 21st century. It popped up on family compilations all the summer of 2010 – we especially enjoyed the howling Ooo..oooo in the middle. Listen to the song sometime, and that last sentence will make sense.
So when the rave reviews came in for Modern Vampires… (many top tens of 2013) it was time to go back again. And not be disappointed – the lyrics are beautifully poetic, such that I don’t always claim to understand them, but at least enjoy the flow of the language, the themes of salvation, the tales of journeys of discovery…etc etc
The sound is not so Soweto as it was, I guess they had to move on but it is rich and sometimes complex. Ironically, the family favourite is nothing clever musically – it’s a lift of Pachelbel’s Canon, Step. But I like the theory that its dedicated to music, the love of his life. Who knows?
The distinct advantage of this video is it prints the lyrics so you can follow along (sort of).