Last month Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times called Vampire Weekend's new EP a "fresh and funny and, weirdly, inevitable debut CD." I don't know about the last part. But his contention that the Brooklynites' canny merging of indie-rock and Afro-pop is sure to be an instant hit with the preppie party crowd is dead on. Although plenty of jam acts have dipped into African drumming styles and even offered up their own groove-focused versions of High Life and other hit-making African forms, Vampire Weekend's approach is different. They aren't hippy-dippy ethnomusicological explorers preaching the interconnectedness of all humanity.
Far from it. Rather than bow down to the purity or uniqueness of their sources, they revel in the absurdity of four fresh-faced Columbia grads in button-down shirts and sensible shoes coming up with a tune like "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," which uses the rhythm and melody of Congolese dance music to celebrate the Ivy League version of summer lovin'. Clearly, it's not entirely innocent stuff. Lyrics like "All your diction dripping with disdain/Through the pain/I always tell the truth" from the frothy-yet-withering "Oxford Comma" demonstrate that pleasant, thoughtful lead mouth Ezra Koenig feels no compunction about baring his fangs. (Or getting even.) The determinedly "fun" approach to cultural appropriation almost suggests that providing Third World dance-beats for Ivy Leaguers could all be a nasty put-on. But I'll give Vampire Weekend the benefit of the doubt in that regard.
The four Vampires aren't wonderful technicians. The drumming can be haphazard, and Koenig's guitar (at least on recordings) doesn't really nail the zesty fullness of his African sources. Even so, Vampire Weekend are the indie act that every college-educated hipster is gonna want to see at least once this summer. And with good reason: They're utterly different from the competition, and completely devoted to getting the business-school-bound party people all hot and devoted.