06 December 2007

Vampire Weekend - 'Mansard Roof'

I'm a resister of hype. Buzz around a band deters me. Lord knows, there are so many awful, third rate retread of retread bands who are being hyped to buggery on any given week. XFM, a kind of 1990s Radio One for stupid people, is particularly culpable here. Every run of the mill guitar band is a second coming for them.

But you have to go where your ears lead you. Apropos of some buzz band of a few years ago, a mate of mine whose tastes run the full gamut from the underground to the wilfully obscure once asked me, "But how can you like them?" "Because I hear the music and I can't help liking it," was all I could reply. I'm no analyst of sound. If these pages are about anything they're about asserting the supremacy of an emotional response to music.

So much has been written about this bunch already on this thing that we call the internet, and that made me disinclined to like them, but then I heard this record and it's great and so they win. It comes in at just over two minutes, has not an ounce of flab on it and is perfectly arranged. It's one of those tunes where everything happens at precisely the right time. Love the singing, love the little bit of strings towards the end, and especially love the percussion.

There would seem something interesting happening at the moment with western bands picking up on non-western rhythms. I've heard African rhythms a few times in unexpected places recently, enough to make me feel it's a trend. It's diverting if probably pointless to speculate on what might be behind this. Has 'world music' - and be honest, all the really good world music is African - become the mainstream? (Hey, Tinariwen are playing Shepherd's Bush Empire next week; it will be interesting to see how they fare outside the Barbican / Jazz Cafe 'world music' ghetto.) Has the crossover between the mighty Konono No. 1 and the American indie avant garde influenced things? (I saw them in London earlier this year and it was a joyful evening; head music and body music at the same time.) Are the current generation who learned the internet as a first language just so normal about being able to access anything instantly that they're open to anything too? Or is it just (and we can only hope not) that they've all got hold of dad's copy of Paul Simon's Graceland?

And of course it opens up a can of worms labelled appropriation if (presumably) privileged white kids take this stuff and prosper on the back of it, but that, my friends, is the entire history of rock and roll music, and are we saying it's better for cultures not to mingle and each to stick to their own? And isn't it great, and a testament of the endless journey music takes you on, that I'll now know what a Mansard roof is the next time I see one?

When it all comes down to it, what the hell, as soon as the drums start beating on this one they have me.

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