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Vampire Weekend at the Bowl: Where's the meat?LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - During their nearly 90-minute set Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl, New York-based indie Afro-popsters Vampire Weekend came off like the missing link between 1980s two-hit wonder Haircut 100 and legendary punks the Clash.

Like Haircut 100, Vampire Weekend are a cute bunch of preppy kids who churn out incessantly hummable, energetic tunes. Like Joe Strummer and company, the band plunders world-beat sounds that are likely unfamiliar to their core fan base, save for those who've heard their parents' Paul Simon records.

But one can't knock Vampire Weekend for their musical thievery because the quartet does it so well, and they're open about their influences. They've even paid back the debt by collaborating with and enlisting the Very Best -- fronted by Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya -- as an opening act.

On Sunday, Vampire Weekend took the stage following a brief set by electro-toasting duo the Very Best and Baltimore's Beach House, whose surreal psychedelic drone-pop made VW sound like Justin Bieber by comparison.

Not that Vampire Weekend is as lightweight as the Bieb, but it's hard not to watch the band and wish there was more weighty subject matter on top of their chicken-scratch guitar riffs and skittering Afro-beats. Boyish good-looking frontman Ezra Koenig slid easily from his smooth Paul Simon-like croon into a falsetto in songs like "White Sky," and the band played with bash-'n'-pop exuberance on "Cousins." But throughout the majority of the set, one had to wonder whether there was anything more to Vampire Weekend's songs than a soundtrack for dancing on a warm September night. Halfway through the set, Vampire Weekend finally made a statement with "One (Blake's Got a New Face)," a scathing indictment of plastic surgery that would make a perfect soundtrack selection for a big-screen adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. Before the tune, Koenig instructed the crowd it was a call-and-response song in which the "appropriate emotion is ecstatic anger."

A keyboard-heavy cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Goin' Down" also showed promise, as did a stretched-out take of "Diplomat's Son," highlighting its reggae rhythms, and the dreamy "I Think Ur a Contra," with bassist Chris Biao on an upright piano and Koenig using revolutionary lingo as a metaphor for personal politics. That sort of potential makes one hopeful Vampire Weekend will develop from a pleasant diversion into a band that truly matters.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 06:33
 
(UK)

Newsflash Archive

"I don't consider our songs to be growers that take ten listens to get into," Frontman Justin Young said. "People will either like us or they won't, it's that simple." The band is called The Vaccines. It's Jay Jay Pistolet and Freddie Cowan, younger brother of Tom from The Horrors. The Vaccines' tracks are short - similar to American Hardcore punk - but played in the style of good, old-fashioned Rock'n'Roll. In fact, the music's so retro, it's Pop. It's like listening to the Ramones, The Beach Boys, and The Shadows, all playing with the distorted guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain.

This London band only played its first-ever show two months ago and just released its debut single, but will make its American debut headling Bowery Ballroom, New York on January 20 and then play Glasslands two days later. In October, the Vaccines played their first London concert. An audience of nearly three hundred included Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Marcus Mumford, members of White Lies and The Maccabees, and a few journalists. More than two hundred were locked outside, including some of the band's friends and Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs.

"On the strength of just a demo and a soon-to-be-released debut single, nearly 300 people have turned up for the Vaccines' first hometown gig [Flowerpot, London]; another 200 have had to be turned away," Betty Clarke reported in the Guardian.

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