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February 9, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Vampire Weekend in the Shadow of 9-11 by Gavin McInnes

Gavin, former founder of Vice Magazine, has been blogging for about a year for Taki's Magaine, published by Taki Theodoracopulos, who describes it in this way:

“I want to shake up the stodgy world of so-called “conservative” opinion. For the past ten years at least, the conservative movement has been dominated by a bunch of pudgy, pasty-faced kids in bow-ties and blue blazers who spent their youths playing Risk in gothic dormitories, while sipping port and smoking their father’s stolen cigars. Thanks to the tragedy of September 11, and a compliant and dim-witted president, these kids got the chance to play Risk with real soldiers, with American soldiers. Patriotic men and women are dying over in Iraq for a war that was never in America’s interests. And now these spitball gunners, these chicken hawks, want to attack Iran, which is no threat to the U.S. at all. One thing I can tell you for sure, there may well be some atheists in foxholes, but you’ll never find a neocon. They prefer to send blue-collar kids out to die on their behalf, so they get to feel macho and make up for all the times they got wedgies in prep school. It shall be our considered task to take on the chicken-hawks of this world, and give them wedgies again.

We want to reflect a traditional conservatism that prefers peace with honor to proxy wars, Western civilization to multicultural barbarism, Christendom to the European Union, and Russell Kirk to Leon Trotsky. This will undoubtedly infuriate many in the mainstream conservative movement, who have transferred their loyalties elsewhere. It’s time to raise their blood pressure a few points—and help them burn off some of those five-course meals they’ve been eating down on K Street."



Gavin Previously
Takimag Previously
posted by Potomac Avenue (183 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brings to mind Operation Yellow Elephant.

Previous FPP: Put your money where your mouth is.
posted by ericb at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010


Every few days I'll see the word "Vampire" on the cover of a magazine, and I'll get all interested and go take a closer look, and the article turns out to be about Vampire Weekend, which has nothing to do with vampires, and then I become sad.

Of course, sometimes the article will be about Twilight, which also has nothing to do with vampires.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


So I shouldn't hate Vampire Weekend because...9/11?

Also, 3/3 of the articles I've clicked on on the takimag website mentioned 9/11, so I'm not sure how it's any different than neocon stuff.
posted by ghharr at 10:35 AM on February 9, 2010


My ulcer thanks you.

I just love VW, because if there's anything American culture needs to lift our spirits, it's more representations of rich people with extraordinary freedoms to define their own lives and greater access to the opportunities that make it possible to be "rich kids having fun," chiefly by virtue of having the good fortune to be born with an unearned, disproportionate share of money and social clout.

Going to go puke now.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


So after reading some of his columns, I can only think that Gavin McInnes is another of the "any publicity is good publicity" types, because of those columns are the work of a man with his head up his ass.

I have no opinion on Vampire Weekend.

I would pay good money to see anyone give Tucker Carlson - who fits that description above - an epic-class wedgie.
posted by mephron at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah. Vampire Weekend in the Shadow of 9-11 sounds like a really grim graphic novel that I'd like to read.

As to the post I've read the text a couple times and I'm not exactly clear what it's about.
(Beyond the not being about vampires part. (Unless you count pudgy, pasty-faced conservatives))
posted by Babblesort at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the actual day, the school became a temporary bunker where hundreds of kids waited for parents who never came. At that year’s graduation ceremony, almost half the kids were staring out at a proud mother who was also a grieving widow.

It's not that I don't believe this, I would just like to see a citation as it is mind blowing. 2,973 victims of 9/11, graduating class at Bronxville High School (2009) 114. So nearly 2% (almost half) of the victims of 9/11 were parents of a senior at Bronxville High School in 2001?
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Man I just think White Sky is a really excellent song, stop making me feel gross about it with your involvement, McInnes
posted by Greg Nog at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2010


I get it, rich people have feelings too. It doesn't mean I have to buy their kids' albums.
posted by hermitosis at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


That Mr. McInnes seems to draw no connection between our "proxy wars" and his ilk's perception of "multicultural barbarism" would be amusing if the results weren't so tragic.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something about this band triggers a hatred that is primal in me.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, it took me several readings to realize that the razor blade was referring to being depressed and not the current popularity of beards in hip circles.
posted by ghharr at 10:40 AM on February 9, 2010


In the sidebar:
[The author] describes himself as a “race-mixing, gay-loving, pro-choice, atheist, anarchist who hates all liberals.”
I was going to say "and apparently he gives a fuck about an Oxford comma," but a little research told me this isn't actually a case of that. Joke thwarted!
posted by valrus at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally, someone is speaking up for the poor rich white kids.
posted by turaho at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Vampire Weekend fans: Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much? I listened to them a few times, thought they were okay, never passionately fell for them. But I assume there's something kickass about their music that I'm not hearing.

What about them gives them a kick for you? Is it the lyrics? The beat? The sense of fun? What song got you addicted? I much prefer loving things to hating them, and I trust somebody can explain their love in a way that'll get me loving them too.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2010


Yeah. Vampire Weekend in the Shadow of 9-11 sounds like a really grim graphic novel that I'd like to read.

I'm seriously contemplating whether or not it's "too soon" to attempt a one-page take off on this idea...I'm going to draw it out first and then evaluate.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I loved their music until I discovered they weren't disenfranchised. Now I can't stand them. Hopefully the singer will turn up with his brains blown out so that it's ok to like them again.

This is music. Do I really have to judge musicians worthy based on some kind of scale of human suffering before I can listen to them?

Didn't really understand the article though.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is a lot more complicated than the FPP and most of the LOLwhitepeople (seriously, what is up with this?) comments grant. Like them or not, VW have put a lot of thought into what they're writing and why. Here is a much, much more interesting article about class, race, and Vampire Weekend.
posted by avianism at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


Wow. Just...just...wow. What a giant load of stinking poo.

I went to school with Vampire Weekend. I performed against them in battles of bands in their early days. One of my good friends is the cellist on their first record. They are frat boys who sing about college and oxford commas. They wear polo shirts and pop their collars. They are engineers. They are not reactionary artists inventing a happy-go-lucky post 9/11 aesthetic. They are college kids going, "fuck yeah beer and shit!"

There isn't even an intelligent thing to say about this. As was said upthread, this guy truly has his head up his ass. Honestly, I'm offended. EVEN IF the members of Vampire Weekend had the conscious insight to create and aesthetic that aimed to relieve the veil of pain and miasma of dust that now hangs over NYC, they did an incredibly shitty job at it. And even if they had done a good job, is this the way we want art to reflect on 9/11? Of course, these are just modalities, for they have done nothing of the sort.

This makes me sad for humans and for art.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


If you want to shake up conservative thought you're not going to do it with media (little 'm') that conservatives don't consume. Keep preachin to that choir.
posted by spicynuts at 10:50 AM on February 9, 2010


I liked their first album, but I bought it mainly to see what all the fuss was about. When I heard about the 2nd album I was disinterested almost immediately. Maybe I had my fill.

If I want a mood lifter, I will listen to They Might Be Giants. Flood is an especially good example, the album has a cheery upbeat song about dealing with a racist and another is sung from a night-light's point of view. What's not to like?
posted by hellojed at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about them gives them a kick for you? Is it the lyrics? The beat? The sense of fun? What song got you addicted? I much prefer loving things to hating them, and I trust somebody can explain their love in a way that'll get me loving them too.

I think, as with all 'beloved' pop music, it's the banality that hooks them.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


how can you be a former founder of something?
posted by Gregamell at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey McInnes, stop trying to define this band, they're just sweater-wearing preps who make exceptionally shitty muzak. Not that complicated. Ugh.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:55 AM on February 9, 2010


I think Metafilter has ruined my ability to interpret text as sincere. That whole article was snark, right? I mean, if it's not, he doesn't really substantiate any of his claims, pretty much says that Vampire Weekend are heroes for not turning into coke addicts and maybe doesn't realize that his argument can be extended to why we should like Ke$ha and the Black Eyed Peas. Somone please tell me he's writing one thing, but he means the opposite, right? Or maybe he's just trolling the internet?

I like Vampire Weekend. They make good music as far as my ears are concerned. But this article is a heaping pile of bullshit no matter which way you try to look at it.
posted by battlebison at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2010


I'm glad I started liking Vampire Weekend before I was aware that everybody else hated them so much.

Rory Manich, I believe it was this video for M79 that did it for me. I love the hell out of some chamber-music pop.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Rory Marinich, sorry.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2010


Also, I see this band as part of this lame emergence of people slightly younger than myself who somehow got on a different cultural influence boat and built their career on Paul Simon's Graceland. I've been around them.. It's bizarre to my soul and rock loving mind. They embrace the worst era of late 80s music and run with it. To each their own, but still... fuck that.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2010


Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma anything this guy has to say?
posted by Copronymus at 11:01 AM on February 9, 2010


Don't know about Vampire Weekend, but the quoted paragraph above puts me off my lunch. You're angry about foreign wars, so you attack nerds as insufficiently masculine? Your metaphor for political change is giving wedgies to shrimpy guys? Fuck you, Taki.

Seriously, this is like blaming prison crowding on fat chicks.
posted by grobstein at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2010


Horace: Excellent. I'm a sucker for fast strings and syncopation. Still not a huge fan of the singer, but the music behind him gives me a warm glowy feeling.

Lutoslawski: Could I suggest that it's possible to be both a typical frat guy and still have some ideas and thoughts worth putting into music? I'm not suggesting they're what this article makes them out to be — we MeFites aren't the only people plating our beans — but at the same time, I currently hang out with a bunch of beer-drinking pot-smoking frat types, and they're pretty damn smart people. Can hold intellectual discussions even when they're not stoned. A bunch of them are talented artists when they're not doing the whole objectifying women drinking beer thing.

I'm not a fratter myself, and as such I do have a bias against people who like that kind of college lifestyle, but I don't like the "slam frat people" impulse. Rich spoiled white people aren't instantly stupid, and it's not like Vampire Weekend's pretending they're anything else, so they're not even being dishonest.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


New York City is for the rich and the young.

Shallow, silly article (about as silly as the above correction).

Vampire Weekend fans: Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much?

I would doubt it's anything universal. That's sorta like asking "Why is Belle and Sebastian such a big deal?" in the mid '90s. Songs, hooks, lyrics .. something resonates with fans.

I like Vampire Weekend. The good stuff reminds me a little of early Police, of which I was a big fan in the '80s.

But I'm not a big fan of VW. V wise, I'd take Voxtrot (or, heck, even (Louisville's own) VHS or Beta) over Vampire Weekend any day of the week.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 AM on February 9, 2010


Interestingly I have the same problem (but different from the article's slant) with Vampire Weekend as I do with The Strokes, which is that their music is incredibly boring and trite.
posted by nanojath at 11:07 AM on February 9, 2010


What about them gives them a kick for you? Is it the lyrics? The beat?

I suspect it's all about identifiability. Who among us hasn't wished there were more popular artists out there connecting to the common man by singing the lyrical praises of Luis Vuitton?

This is music. Do I really have to judge musicians worthy based on some kind of scale of human suffering before I can listen to them?

As a guy from working class background who's run a small indie label and tried to scratch out a meager career as a musician for 20 years, who's seen the whole indie music scene come to be more and more dominated by rich trust fund kids using their financial resources to effectively buy themselves a VIP-pass to skip to the head of the line, bypassing the painful, career-making slog it takes most artists who don't come from independently wealthy backgrounds to get ahead, I'll admit I've got a personal chip on my shoulder when it comes to VW.

Their music is fine, I guess. But there's a lot of fine music in the world. And I know for a fact that a lot of equally deserving music will never get the attention it deserves because of the miles and miles of bought-and-paid-for PR and music press ink guys like this, who can afford it, can always reliably expect for their dollar.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


I don't think anyone actually listens to Vampire Weekend, they're only listening to their own inner dialogue telling them how clever and hip they are for liking such a wantonly eclectic group. If all that mental chatter died down and they actually listened to the the music they would reflexively reach for the off switch. Terrible nonsense.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like music. I have a collection that must people would find more than eclectic, more like scattershot. VW is a nice little band with a decent sound. They seem to be a little better than a one hit wonder band. I just do not comprehend the "fuss" about their music. All Music is good for something. Getting rid of an annoying guest or sipping whiskey and smoking cigarrettes.

bjgeiger
"The Little Old Lady from Texas"
posted by bjgeiger at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh dear, I almost quoted Hipster Runoff there. Something about "Living in a post Vampire weekend #1 album in the world era"

Also: I can't read Vice without getting really, really depressed. I wonder who finds this stuff trendy, and why.

I blame adderall. it's Gen y's generational drug. Gen X had ecstasy and they got the rave scene. What do we gen y'ers get? This. It's really frustrating. Adderall is a drug taken to be more productive and not, you know, have fun.

Maybe I'm just making huge generalizations, which are probably all wrong, and in that case I will probably get a job offer from one of these publications in the near future.
posted by hellojed at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2010


But I'm not a big fan of VW. V wise, I'd take Voxtrot (or, heck, even (Louisville's own) VHS or Beta) over Vampire Weekend any day of the week.

Played with "VHS or Beta" at a local club, just after seeing them on the mainstage at CMJ when my band played there way back in 2002. At CMJ, "VHS or Beta" were received like heros; back in our hometown, literally maybe 15 people showed up. It was a tragedy. "VHS or Beta" still rocked though. That is all.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to sound like a hater. There's much more offensive and useless music out there, I just don't resonate with their vibe at all and they seem so overrated.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2010


Lutoslawski: Could I suggest that it's possible to be both a typical frat guy and still have some ideas and thoughts worth putting into music?

Of course; I use the word as a stereotype and clearly there are many exceptions. However, in the case at hand, these frat boys really don't have ideas worth putting into music, unless of course you think getting out of Cape Cod is a particularly worthy sentiment to make into art.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2010



I blame adderall. it's Gen y's generational drug. Gen X had ecstasy and they got the rave scene. What do we gen y'ers get?


Psychedelics still exist ya know.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2010


What a wonderful, insightful article that happens to also be relevant to my personal interests!

Which are, of course, the "epic" revival of rich kid culture, and moneyed youth.
posted by shownomercy at 11:17 AM on February 9, 2010


And I know for a fact that a lot of equally deserving music will never get the attention it deserves because of the....

That's the thing though. Being deserving doesn't guarantee popularity and it never really has. I really doubt that having the resources to bring yourself more quickly to the attention of a record company is really enough to ensure success. People still have to want to buy the music.


I don't think anyone actually listens to Vampire Weekend, they're only listening to their own inner dialogue telling them how clever and hip they are for liking such a wantonly eclectic group.

I've tried explaining that to my three-year-old son, but he insists that he still likes the songs. Maybe I should beat the smug little hipster.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Vampire Weekend fans: Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much?

I don't know if I'd count as a "fan," but I like them. They make decent pop. I like the beat. They sing in a range that makes it easy for me to sing along. They don't have an endless series of what I call "poor me whiny whiny boy-band" songs. I'm an editor and their Oxford Comma song makes me laugh. That's it.
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vampire Weekend are trying to play afrobeat with a flaccid rhythm section.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


unless of course you think getting out of Cape Cod is a particularly worthy sentiment to make into art.

Salinger did.

*ducks*
posted by gompa at 11:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, that was lame. What a boring, unconvincing article. I am having a hard time believing it was written by a founder of Vice - not because it's conservative, that doesn't surprise me at all. Just that it was so... weak. A snappy comeback to a barely recognizable 60 year old insult? Trying to guilt people into liking a band? Pious faux-shock at African influences? Amazement that a band was able to get a crowd dancing that one time he saw them? Who the fuck is his audience?

And this!? : Are there any American bands that aren’t ripping off black music?

He sounds like a 14 year-old saying "yeah guys, but everyone does that, guys!" And it's just such a weird sentence... is he including black American bands when he claims that all American bands are ripping off black music? I mean, everyone is ripping someone off, so yes, black American bands are just ripping off black music, if you ask me. But I don't think that's what he meant.

Also, some people happen to think that the Strokes are a boring, weak band. So, to these people, it would appear reasonable that they became "a thing" not because of their music but because of their money and connections.
posted by molecicco at 11:26 AM on February 9, 2010


Vampire Weekend fans: Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much?

What about them gives them a kick for you? Is it the lyrics? The beat? The sense of fun? What song got you addicted? I much prefer loving things to hating them, and I trust somebody can explain their love in a way that'll get me loving them too.


I know nothing about Vampire Weekend other than that they are from New England and I love their music. All this stuff about them being rich frat guys is news to me, and I can't say I give a shit about it.

I wouldn't call it a "sense of fun" in the songs, I never figured the lyrics were about especially fun things. But the songs are incredibly catchy, have good beats, and the singer can do some stuff with his vocal cords that I can't (check out the way he shrieks "Blake's" here for an example of something I cannot do, check out almost their whole second album for many more examples).

The first song I heard from them was A-Punk, Oxford Comma was the second and it has a fun video. Both are good songs, and catchy, and they're why I bought their first album. But the best song on it is Walcott.

I like Vampire Weekend because, yes, their music is inspired by (or "stealing from," whatever you want to call it I don't care) African music, they use instruments I don't hear a lot elsewhere, their lyrics are interesting, their lead singer sounds good, and I think they're catchy, addictive and great. I listened to their first album once and liked it, and after a second go it's now my go-to music. I like their second album almost as much after hearing it a few times.

It also doesn't hurt that they have a song that references Peter Gabriel that was then self-referentially covered by Peter Gabriel.
posted by audacity at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


That's the thing though. Being deserving doesn't guarantee popularity and it never really has.

Yes, but increasingly, being rich at the start really does almost guarantee some degree of popular success.

You'd be amazed how effective the indie hype machinery is. It just costs a lot of money to fuel it. It isn't enough to just win over the gatekeepers who can put that machinery to work; you also have to have the money to pay the bills. This happens in one of two ways: either you win over the gatekeepers and they bring their resources to bear on your behalf. Or two, you just pay the crap out of independent promoters and magazines yourself (building "good will" as they say) until--surprise, surprise!--they want to review your albums.

For reasons that aren't exactly inscrutable, it's a lot easier to succeed if you can just pay everyone yourself.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


People still have to want to buy the music.

Some percentage of people will inevitably buy whatever crap is being hyped through the channels they're exposed to. Indie fans just live in a different bubble.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, to these people, it would appear reasonable that they became "a thing" not because of their music but because of their money and connections.

No one becomes "a thing" without money (coming from somewhere) and connections. No one.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much?

Cause it's fun music. Also, for those of us who grew up in the 80s with liberal, ex-hippie parents, it reminds us of the "world beat" music we grew up listening to in our suburban minivans, strained through the cheesecloth of indie rock.

And yes, that makes me a good 8 years older than the members of VW, and probably more than a decade older than most of their fans, but I've had this conversation with several of my Ladysmith Black Mambazo-raised contemporaries and we all shared the same reasons for liking VW.

I, too, rolled my eyes and moved on when I first heard about VW a couple of years ago. I might have even muttered "Are you fucking kidding me?" when a friend asked me if I wanted to go see the at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC in 2007. But I really regret that I let my own snarkiness about hipsters and privilege color my early impressions of them, because, really, they're just a fun, great band.
posted by lunasol at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Paul Simon's Graceland [...] the worst era of late 80s music.

What ?? Have you ever listened to that album?

---

And I like Vampire Weekend. I think their songs are interesting and catchy in a pop sort of way. I don't care if they wear popped collars or are rich kids from Columbia or whatever. I learned all that after I learned that I liked their music. The anti-VW backlash is really tired.
posted by jckll at 11:33 AM on February 9, 2010


The anti-VW backlash is really tired.

What backlash? Looks to me like their sales numbers are pretty good.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on February 9, 2010


I enjoy Vampire Weekend's music. I do question a little bit of their values, especially since the first cd had much more of a "rich kid abroad" vibe in the lyrics. I think their second album shows a bit more range and maturity though (especially since the last song "contra" seems to deal with this issue head on).

I do think it''s fucking weird that so many people get off on complaining about how rich and privileged they are, it really ranks of bitterness. This article is total bullshit. Some music doesn't need justification. If it makes my butt move and it makes me feel good I listen to it. If it doesn't, I don't. Lady Gaga seems as manufactured and forced as anything out there, but people here seem to love her, so I don't bother trying to knock down their favorite artists. I also won't go around trying to justify why I love Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and Major Lazer. I don't need to justify what my butt likes jumping around to.

And seriously, Paul Simon's Graceland is the worst of the 80's? Did you even live through the 80's? Christ.
posted by cyphill at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This article gave me a bit more insight into a band I had wholly dismissed for non-ironic boat shoes and lyrics about daddys yacht.

I think the author is confusing a unique personal experience (a school hard hit by 9/11) with a fundamental generational shift.

Gen x: assholes, emotions=weak. Sex means nothing, have as much as possible. Go into finance, love greed, and the dotcom boom will never end! Also Robert Longo totaly gets you.

Gen y*: pussies. Express feelings and develop a personal voice/style. Seek romantic love. Playful/optimistic outlook on life. Get a BFA/do social work and you can change the world!

Fortunately, you can also hear this attitude expressed by much, much, better bands.

*oh shit, yeah, thats me. I'm young!
posted by fontophilic at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2010


I know those guys, actually. They're alright.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2010


I do think it''s fucking weird that so many people get off on complaining about how rich and privileged they are, it really ranks of bitterness.

It is bitterness, and a lot of it comes from people who've actually worked in indie music and can see the strong trend emerging in the scene toward popular indie becoming essentially a glorified hobby of the rich.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what to make of the (very knee-jerk-seeming) responses from an awful lot of people claiming that people only like Vampire Weekend because they're supposed to for some reason or another. That's relegating an awful lot of people into the Mindless Pitchfork Slave-Drones category and I'm not seeing a lot of evidence for it. Even those who bother to claim that VW's music is bad rarely give much reason for it despite unsupported one-liners, or claiming that they're "singing the lyrical praises of Louis Vuitton" when even a cursory examination of the lyrics reveals that the mention is scene-setting, not extolling.

I dunno. I listen to VW because they can write a good, catchy and not thoroughly predictable melody with words that sound good and don't make me roll my eyes. I don't usually pay much attention to the lyrics, but they're not like what anyone else is writing, in my experience, and I don't hear anything in them that seems to be praising a wealthy lifestyle; to me, it sounds more like just a backdrop. They're writing what they know. If anyone is willing to cite actual examples to the contrary, I'm willing to listen. But it doesn't really matter to me, because the plain fact is that to my ears Vampire Weekend make good-sounding music (I'm aware that this is a subjective matter, and you may not like them, but please at least have the rhetorical decency to say so rather than stating categorically that their music sucks as if it were an objective truth), and I think all the examination of their motives and backgrounds is kind of beside the point.
posted by valrus at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


some people happen to think that the Strokes are a boring, weak band.

I am neutral about the subject of the post I posted, but this is patently false. Years have tested the Strokes (especially their criticallyoverlooked but now staunchly admired 3rd record) and found them more than able to absorb any haterays and make them into fuel. Time to pack up the equipment on that front.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem with VW per se, honestly. Their music doesn't suck! It's not the earth-shattering stuff some seem to think, but it's decent enough. They've just become a symbol for what a lot of us see as a really unhealthy trend in the way independent music is marketed and promoted.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that it's okay for music to be agreeable, to be fun. I also think that when you to start to form a (possibly irrational) dislike for a band their music suddenly becomes inescapable, which reinforces your opinion. I like Vampire Weekend, but I appreciate that their glibness and ubiquity might prove to be hugely irritating if I didn't. But just because you like Schoenberg don't mean Tchaikovsky sucks.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? They make me smile and not feel so old, how's that?
posted by tigrefacile at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2010


Look, before this post I had never heard of this band. I've just googled them, found a few uTube clips and listened to them to make an informed post. They aren't bad. They aren't good either, but they aren't bad. They're almost something I'd listen to, but meh - if I want that sound, I'll listen to a little bit more 70s-80s brit-rock and 80s US new wave / progressive. Point being: they aren't covering new ground or making a sound noone has ever heard before.

Look if you like it, no fault to you. If you don't like it, also no fault to you. Its rock music. Not everybody is going to like it - that's why its good sometimes.

As for their social responsibility or what have you, these guys aren't using the buttocks of New Yorks homeless to hold their golf tees while they sip on some Dom before taking a 3 Wood and sending a diamond plated golfball into the side of a luxry SUV at point blank range just because they can. They're making music - that's it. They have no social responsibility. They don't have to change the world. Guess what - they don't have to.

If you like their music - that's fine. If you like their social agenda - that's fine. If you don't like either of those things - that's fine. If you like one but not the other - well, that's something in you that you'll have to learn to resolve for yourself...
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like the first album. When they came out, they had an interesting sound that I hadn't heard much of at the time. I just think they make good, catchy pop/rock songs and not much more than that.

Is the album a classic? No. And, I've also seen them live and was disappointed.

I think this author is spending too much time on a not that relevant band.
posted by hazyspring at 11:55 AM on February 9, 2010


Yes, but increasingly, being rich at the start really does almost guarantee some degree of popular success.

I think I know what you mean but this doesn't bear out in my (not all-encompassing but still pretty wide vast and extensive... ok, among a group of people I know/have known) experience.

I've know a lot of rich kids who went into 'the arts'/creative endeavors of one kind or another and it's really only the ones with actual talent and drive who succeeded. They just got to eat regularly, drive an ok car and vacation places. But now that I've seen this group for twenty-odd years, it's interesting to see who is still out there in the cultural wide and who isn't.

It is bitterness, and a lot of it comes from people who've actually worked in indie music and can see the strong trend emerging in the scene toward popular indie becoming essentially a glorified hobby of the rich.

Yeah, I agree - it's in the film industry and publishing as well. Which brings up an important point - Dave Eggers. He's the epitome of this issue. On the one hand a privileged and not particularly self-aware guy with some talent bums around and decides to start a magazine... the thing is, he's pretty fucking great at it - and as much as I enjoy the concept of "hating Dave Eggers" he is a terrific editor who has galvanized a lot of talent. Sort of a George Plimpton for my generation.

I don't know whatthefuck the article was - but Taki is one rich dude who (I seem to recall) can't understand why everyone else isn't rich, too. Which is to say I won't drift by his web-site/portal/blog/whatever again.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


"I knew them first and I knew them well."

Stephen Patrick Morrissey, circa 1987.
posted by elmono at 11:55 AM on February 9, 2010


And seriously, Paul Simon's Graceland is the worst of the 80's? Did you even live through the 80's? Christ.
posted by cyphill at 1:38 PM on February 9


Okay I don't generally post twice in a thread but come on how can you not tap to "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes". I mean really.
posted by bjgeiger at 11:56 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have nothing to add that hasn't already been said better by someone up thread. These guys suck. They suck even more because of their Strokes-like-rich-kid-instant-hype-machine than I previously thought.
Musically, my problem isn't with them ripping off black music. My problem is with them ripping off Paul Simon, ripping off black music.
posted by kaiseki at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2010


I like Vampire Weekend, even though I normally hate pop or overhyped indie music.

(Alert: next few sentences will sound elitist and dickish, but I can't think of how else to explain their appeal.)

The second time I saw them was in a dorm basement at Haverford. In a bizarre setting like that -- low ceilings, mass of people -- well, they rocked. It's not something you'll ever hear on their albums, but it's what I'll always think of when I listen to them. I totally understand how them come across as irritating, but I can't make myself focus on that.

The music and lyrics... well, to me, it's a weird mix of earnestness and tongue-in-cheekiness. It's amusing and enjoyable.

Plus, they seem like nice guys. I talked to the bass player for a few minutes before I knew he was the bass player (thought he was the merch guy). He seemed like a perfectly normal, quiet, nerdy guy. The lead singer too, though with more lead-singer-required extroversion.
posted by supercres at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You misread me, I LOVE GRACELAND. One of my favorite albums ever.
posted by cyphill at 12:02 PM on February 9, 2010


So the moral might be: Don't hate VM just because they come from privileged roots, but don't let some critic guilt you into thinking you have to hop on board, loving VM and embracing some new form of happy-prep club political conservatism all because VM doesn't do coke and is just trying to save the post-9-11 world, after all.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:05 PM on February 9, 2010


To paraphrase a wise man: it is harder for a band from New York to become really great than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

Vampire Weekend? - I wish them the best, accolades and happy record deals and all-night dancing happy shows. But most of all, I wish them the three things they probably will never have: the realization that they're wasting their lives, a midnight epiphany that the dark side of life can hold more truth and beauty than most of us will ever understand, and the skill and artfulness to express that in music.

In the mean time, I won't be buying any of their awful records. Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 12:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Vampire Weekend was my favorite band until Werewolf Weekdays came about.
posted by pwally at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


My problem is with them ripping off Paul Simon, ripping off black music.

By extension you must think that every band ever "sucks". All music is derivative to a greater or lesser extent. And I think Paul Simon got the idea from Peter Gabriel, etc., etc.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:09 PM on February 9, 2010


HA! Rich people suck! And so does their music!

Am I doing it right? Does everyone like me now?
posted by eyeballkid at 12:11 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm enough of a fan to have purchased "Vampire Weekend". Walcott is my favorite. It's pop music, don't overthink it. (for the thread down below - I'm okay with T-Swift also).
posted by Edward L at 12:12 PM on February 9, 2010


*oh shit, yeah, thats me. I'm young!

Oh, I know, it goes on, it gets old. But for now we're young, we smell good, we're alone.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:13 PM on February 9, 2010


Vampire Weekend fans: Do any of you have the time or patience to explicitly gush about what makes you love VW so much?

Flowing, glowing, catchy songs. Also, not that this is a reason I particularly like them (but it helps), the singer is very articulate. They're one of the few bands where I don't have to constantly look up the lyrics for their songs.

I wouldn't say it has anything to do with identifiability (but I may be an exception... I didn't even know who louis vuitton was until way after I'd heard that particular song), after all there can't be that many rich ivy-league hipsters that they alone are supporting the band.

So although there would seem to be a lot to hate about them (at least their image) I really don't hate them for any of it because they don't come off as snooty about it in their music. They're really up front about it in a "yeah, we're rich bastards... but are you seriously going to hate us just for that?" kind of way. In a weird way they seem to be using their image to subvert the tired indie trope of hating rich people for vague reasons (usually originating from "trustfund hipster douches" and youthful faux-revolutionary leftists). Quote from a recent interview about their most recent album's cover: "It's almost like a Rorschach test, because some people get very mad when they see a white blond girl in a Polo shirt."

a midnight epiphany that the dark side of life can hold more truth and beauty than most of us will ever understand

i loled... wait, you weren't being serious, right? THE DARK SIDE OF LIFE IS TRUER AND BEAUTIFULER THAN HAPPINESS..... THATS WHY ILL ALWAYS BE SAD... IM AN ARTISTE. BOOHOOO!!! *drinks glass filled with own tears*
posted by symbollocks at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've just googled them, found a few uTube clips and listened to them to make an informed post. They aren't bad. They aren't good either, but they aren't bad.

And this seems to represent (to me) the attitude that's altogether too easy in our information-overloaded generation - "I listened to a few clips and instantly knew whether they were good or bad."

And now that I've said it, I'm having a hard time even putting into words why it irritates me so.
posted by kingbenny at 12:17 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


> This is a lot more complicated than the FPP and most of the LOLwhitepeople (seriously, what is up with this?) comments grant. Like them or not, VW have put a lot of thought into what they're writing and why. Here is a much, much more interesting article about class, race, and Vampire Weekend.

Thanks for that link, avianism. A great article that really concretized a lot of what I'd been thinking about criticism of VW and stuff like that shitty "things white people like" blog, but hadn't organized into coherent sentences.
posted by Shepherd at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2010


(Just a little parenthetical derail here to balance all the this-and-that-sucks, for some stuff I love that you might love too:

If you're looking for a crushingly sad and powerful record: J.B. Smith's "Ever Since I Have Been a Man Full Grown," recordings of Smith in the Ramsey Prison Farm in 1965, singing unaccompanied, "making psalms from the stars." It's been out of print for decades but the songs circulate if you Google for 'em.

The band Gowns just dissolved, sadly, but they've released their final song, "Stand and Encounter," online, and it's 17 minutes of bright, burning emotional sparks struck by an enormous hammer of drone.

Julianna Barwick just came out with this amazing short album "Florine." It's voices and pianos and loops and echoes. Once when I was little I went swimming in the neighborhood pool in the fall and it started to rain after I jumped in and I remember looking up at the surface of the water which was covered with silent silver circles expanding and interfering. This record is like that.

Yoñlu (dumb Flash music player promo site warning) was the pseudonym of an astonishingly talented Brazilian teenager who made funny, haunting sonic collages and great songs like Elliot Smith meets bossa nova and tropicalia. He took his own life at 16. This album "A Society in Which No Tear is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre" is collected from material he had shared across the Internet.

If you want to jump around and sing along like a total dork, I heartily recommend Hot Lava's "Lavalogy" (also ideal for pretending that we're not about to get buried in a wall of snow; that, instead, it's a hot Friday evening in summer and the streetlights just came on against a deep indigo sky).

Parenthetical derail closed.)
posted by finnb at 12:24 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Saul: re:the co-op of indie music

I'm on two sides of this issue. On one hand I know a few people in bands that deserve to be heard. Some are getting help through Kevin's Broken Social Scene label, others are on their own. But on the other hand, corporate interest gets peaked every time a genre gets popular, in some ways that can be beneficial (oh, you guys like this ultra-promoted band? Well here are their influences, here are bands they like), in some ways it can feel like there is harm as smaller bands without connections get pushed to the sidelines. But really, does this leave those smaller bands any worse off? They would have been pushed to the side anyway. One of my favorite bands for the past 5 or so years is Man Man, a band with practically no mass market appeal. Yet on many of the indie blogs I got to to find music I sometimes see aggressive online ad campaigns for them by their label. (And did you hear grizzly bear in a Super Bowl commercial?)

The nature of bigger business co-oping smaller genres is cyclical and systematic. At every point there's a genre that's being "exploited" and led by bands with cross-over appeal. You have ska and punk and rap in the 90's, techno, dance and indie in the oughts. I think it's pointless arguing over whether the promotion of bands in a genre is bad for the genre or not because its so inevitable from a business standpoint. As a result you also get the inevitable backlash, that is just as kneejerk and cyclical as the marketing push. Indie, as such a catch-all genre to begin with, has been responding better then most because a lot of artists are so inspired by other genres of music and have a willingness to incorporate them and change their sound. Listeners hear changes they like and get sent off down different genres trees, finding different artists.

I would love to hear more about the problems that you and your friends think are endemic to the indie community right now, and I think you nailed the compromise in your last comment. It's much more fun and productive to justify enjoying something then it is to tear it down.
posted by cyphill at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2010


symbollocks: “i loled... wait, you weren't being serious, right? THE DARK SIDE OF LIFE IS TRUER AND BEAUTIFULER THAN HAPPINESS..... THATS WHY ILL ALWAYS BE SAD... IM AN ARTISTE. BOOHOOO!!! *drinks glass filled with own tears*”

HA HA

ROCK MUSIC IS LAMERZ, LOL!!!

PUNK ROCK SHIT IS BORING, SUCH A DOWNER!!!

I WANT SOMETHING STICKY-SWEET TO GO WITH MY FLAVORED MARTINI

O LOOK, ITS VAMPIRE WEEKEND!!! AWESOME!!!
posted by koeselitz at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are there any American bands that aren’t ripping off black music?

Your local gamelan orchestra is 99% guaranteed not to be ripping off black music. Other than that, pal, you are shit out of luck.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:26 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


@kingbenny:
Its because anyone can edit to decent production standards now with their home PC. Production and editing used to be a skill by few and it was tough to make mediocre music sound ok enough to listen to. Now, that's for the mot part pretty easy (see Paris Hilton's singing career). Heck, if you've got enough cash, you can hire the best to make your mediocre music sound well above par for mediocre.

I work with musicians music engineers, folks that own their own studio, and a whole slough of folks that have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of that industry (I mostly fall into that category). And I work with them in their "day job" categorization point of their career. Not everything indie is good - and most of it is really really realy crap. (I have found that guys that own their own studio are truly incapable of throttling someone and telling them their music sucks). But, for the most part creating mediocre music isn't as hard as it used to be... that means - to find the next Led Zepplin you have to dig through a metric ton of palatable (but not great) studio rich kids to find it.

Oh yeah, and sometimes - sometimes - rich kids are *very* very good at composition and production (see the Garage artist "The Streets").
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:28 PM on February 9, 2010


I love Paul Simon. I love Graceland. I even love Rhythm of the Saints. I don't think it's possible to "rip off black music". If you don't know what I mean go find a copy of James Brown Live in Zaire then listen to some 70s African funk. Africa has been part of the world music community for a long time. We rip them off, they rip us off. I think it used to be called "the folk process".

Also, Vampire Weekend is a rich-kid band? Damn! I had no idea.

You know who else was a starving artist?
posted by irisclara at 12:29 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I doing it right? Does everyone like me now?

Christ, no, eyeballkid. We still hate you.
posted by rtha at 12:30 PM on February 9, 2010


> This is a lot more complicated than the FPP and most of the LOLwhitepeople (seriously, what is up with this?) comments grant. Like them or not, VW have put a lot of thought into what they're writing and why. Here is a much, much more interesting article about class, race, and Vampire Weekend.

"at some point we’re barely reading criticism anymore: we’re just watching the refereeing of a game we’re all too familiar with"

That was a nice tonic for the FPP. Thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on February 9, 2010


symbollocks: “Flowing, glowing, catchy songs. Also, not that this is a reason I particularly like them (but it helps), the singer is very articulate. They're one of the few bands where I don't have to constantly look up the lyrics for their songs.”

If it's worth anything: those bands you hate because you have to think when you're listening to them? Some of them are very good.

“I wouldn't say it has anything to do with identifiability (but I may be an exception... I didn't even know who louis vuitton was until way after I'd heard that particular song), after all there can't be that many rich ivy-league hipsters that they alone are supporting the band. So although there would seem to be a lot to hate about them (at least their image) I really don't hate them for any of it because they don't come off as snooty about it in their music. They're really up front about it in a "yeah, we're rich bastards... but are you seriously going to hate us just for that?" kind of way. In a weird way they seem to be using their image to subvert the tired indie trope of hating rich people for vague reasons (usually originating from "trustfund hipster douches" and youthful faux-revolutionary leftists). Quote from a recent interview about their most recent album's cover: ‘It's almost like a Rorschach test, because some people get very mad when they see a white blond girl in a Polo shirt.’”

I may be an exception, too - I had no idea where they were from or what social group produced them until I saw this thread. I only had heard 'Walcott' and 'A-Punk,' and pardon me for not connecting the lyrics of 'Walcott' with them personally as a group of people, but I didn't realize at all that they were prep school kids. And I absolutely loathed their music. Ugh. Happy, poppy, smarmy drivel. And I'd heard this stuff about them using 'African' influences - which doesn't offend or annoy me in the slightest, the only thing that bugs me is that it's clearly a lie. 'A-Punk' is a fucking ska song. Say it - SKA. Not a dirty word. Okay, so it was cool ten years ago, just before it became tremendously uncool - but at least have the balls to say 'yeah, we wrote a SKA song.'

I don't know. It's just... this stuff seems really lackluster and boring to me. And it's kind of insulting that everybody assumes that I hate this shit because of who made it. Are we not allowed to dislike shit music simply because it's shit music anymore - we have to make some apology about who made it?
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never knew people could get so passionate about bubble gum pop.
posted by Max Power at 12:38 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


My ulcer thanks you.

I just love VW, because if there's anything American culture needs to lift our spirits, it's more representations of rich people with extraordinary freedoms to define their own lives and greater access to the opportunities that make it possible to be "rich kids having fun," chiefly by virtue of having the good fortune to be born with an unearned, disproportionate share of money and social clout.

Going to go puke now.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:36 PM on February 9 [6 favorites +] [!]


Woah. All you people up thread who don't like Vampire Weekend because of their "rich white kid" backgrounds are completely ignorant and just plain miserable people. You've created a stereotype about who this band is along with their audience that is way off and offensive. And why? Just so you can feel some kind of misplaced righteousness?

Well congratulations ignorant people, you've done your job today of hating people who like good, fun and uplifting music. Go and celebrate by yelling at some kindergartners to get off your lawn.
posted by pwally at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're really up front about it in a "yeah, we're rich bastards... but are you seriously going to hate us just for that?" kind of way.

As someone who's seen the hate go in the other direction on enough occasions that I don't think the point your making is as clear as you'd like to think it is, I'd ask: Do you doubt for a second that there are plenty of rich people who hate/mistrust poor people simply for being poor? Do VW? Probably not. But obviously, there are going to be people who hate them for being rich, and those people have every right to hate them for that reason.

And besides, judging the personal history of the artist is exactly as sound and objectively defensible a criterion for liking or not liking a particular cultural product as any other. There's no rule that says social context aren't allowed to inform tastes. They do anyway, whether we notice it or not.

Since tastes are more or less arbitrary anyway, making a judgment based on your knowledge of a band's personal history is just as legitimate an aesthetic response as is liking a song because the rhythm guitarist puts emphasis on the upbeats, or because the song makes interesting use of syncopation. Some of my favorite artists are artists I admire precisely because of what their creative accomplishments mean/meant in the context of their lives. There was a time when it was commonly understood that the art and artist couldn't be cleanly separated, that one necessarily informs the other, and the mere fact that this point of view isn't fashionable today doesn't mean it's not legitimate.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your local gamelan orchestra is 99% guaranteed not to be ripping off black music.

Uh-uh. They do a Bill Withers cover.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz - hey there buddy, might be time to relax...

Back when I was on an old forum the huge debate was 311 versus Nine Inch Nails and Tool (this was like 96 at the time). The NIN and Tool fans would get all worked up about how 311's music doesn't mean anything because the lyrics and tunes are so light and some of the music was shallow. 311 fans would reply that NIN and Tool were simply concerned with being as dark as possible and were generally unpleasant to listen to, not to mention equally shallow. It took someone standing up and saying, "you know what? I like both, I listen to 311 when I'm in the mood to partay, and I listen to NIN when I'm depressed or more reflective". Why does the path to true art only go through despair, why is uplifting music necessarily less artistic then music rooted in the "dark side of life". And how is touring around the country, making lots of fans happy and making music that a large number of people respond to emotionally somehow devoid of any worth?
posted by cyphill at 12:41 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, they call a lot of their songs ska or ska influenced, so I'm not sure why you're so so worked about that
posted by cyphill at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2010


Most of what I listen to is either hardcore punk, 80's goth, industrial, or some of that modern synth/future/whateverpop.

But goddamn if Graceland isn't one of history's all-time best albums.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, that would probably go down a lot smoother if you weren't making broad angry assumptions about people that do like Vampire Weekend, in all caps, in this very thread.

saulgoodman, I hear what you're saying, but there comes a point -- and I say this as a frustrated writer who has seen trust-fund babies leap ahead of me because I've been busy with this terrible, tedious "day job" business while they have nothing to do but write and shmooze all day -- when I have to ask myself the following questions:

1. Am I a good writer?
2. Given the opportunity, would I appreciate an opportunity to enjoy financial security that would allow me the liberty to do nothing but write and shmooze all day?
3. Would that make me a bad writer?

...and I keep coming to the conclusion that I have to base my opinions on the merit of the work, not whether the creator has more opportunities to produce it than I do. I sympathize with your argument, but I can't follow it down to the level of individual bands.
posted by Shepherd at 12:47 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I had to listen to people debate the relative merits of tool, 311, and NIN, I'd probably light myself in fire
posted by mpbx at 12:48 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are there any other 80s afro-pop influenced rock records that dont suck? I love graceland too, and a few of the byrne/talking heads songs that exhibit that guitar sound...but what obscure gems am I missing from this bin?

ps Miike Snow
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:48 PM on February 9, 2010


pwally: “Woah. All you people up thread who don't like Vampire Weekend because of their "rich white kid" backgrounds are completely ignorant and just plain miserable people. You've created a stereotype about who this band is along with their audience that is way off and offensive. And why? Just so you can feel some kind of misplaced righteousness? Well congratulations ignorant people, you've done your job today of hating people who like good, fun and uplifting music. Go and celebrate by yelling at some kindergartners to get off your lawn.”

Hey there. Have you actually read the links? This thread wasn't framed as 'here's some good, fun and uplifting music!' It was framed as 'here's a band who's helping us understand what 9/11 meant, and what conservatism means in the wake of that epoch-making event!' Moreover, I'm poking around at some interviews now, and it's pretty clear that Vampire Weekend themselves frame their band and its meaning in terms of African influences, 9/11, their political and artistic directions, and all sorts of broader, more meaningful tropes.

In fact, if I were a member of Vampire Weekend, pwally, I'd find your little comment more insulting and condescending than anything else in this thread. Your assumption that they're just dumb fun kind of makes them seem a bit infantile, doesn't it?

It hurts you to see a band you like considered under the sometimes withering eye of critical thought. Fine. Leave the thread and let it go. It's pretty clear that Vampire Weekend were happy to submit their stuff to that withering gaze - they did, after all, release it commercially.
posted by koeselitz at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


mpbx: yeah, as an impartial observer to that I found the whole thing pretty laughable. It's like groups of children on two halves of a wading pool, each arguing that their side is deeper.
posted by cyphill at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2010


Shepherd: “koeselitz, that would probably go down a lot smoother if you weren't making broad angry assumptions about people that do like Vampire Weekend, in all caps, in this very thread.”

I wasn't making any broad angry assumptions about people who like Vampire Weekend. They may be perfectly pleasant folk. I don't know many of them.

I was making broad angry assumptions about symbollocks. And I'll point out that I was a lot less harsh than he was.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2010


Well congratulations ignorant people, you've done your job today of hating people who like good, fun and uplifting music.

I don't hate them. I hate what they represent: not their music, the sociological reality underneath it.

Ignorant is right.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:53 PM on February 9, 2010


avianism, that essay you linked is pretty fantastic. Thank you.

Pull-quote:
I think most of us could afford to stand down our participation in The Game. What it tends to draw out of us are critiques that sound fierce and penetrating but are mostly about arrogance and oneupsmanship and posturing.

posted by Greg Nog at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does calling something"shit" equal "the sometimes withering eye of critical thought"? The two don't seem to be the same thing to me.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I read that essay, too. The trouble is that, if you eschew 'the Game,' what is there? The author seems to think that 'the Game' is the only real framework for critical reaction to music in existence.

Isn't it possible for something to fail to capture the truth about a painful event? Isn't it possible that Vampire Weekend's body of work simply doesn't give us any answers about the pain and tragedy which events like 9/11 bring with them?
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on February 9, 2010


> This is a lot more complicated than the FPP and most of the LOLwhitepeople (seriously, what is up with this?) comments grant. Like them or not, VW have put a lot of thought into what they're writing and why. Here is a much, much more interesting article about class, race, and Vampire Weekend.

I don't know why I didn't catch this the first time around. Thanks, avianism, the linked article is really interesting.
posted by audacity at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2010


tigrefacile: “Does calling something"shit" equal "the sometimes withering eye of critical thought"? The two don't seem to be the same thing to me.”

Well, that's just semantics, then. Whenever I say music's 'shit,' others may feel free to read 'not of a high artistic caliber.'

Besides, isn't this conversation a bit off-topic now? The point of contention wasn't whether Vampire Weekend are a good band - a more abstract assertion, more difficult to discuss, although we can if everyone wants to. The point of contention was whether Vampire Weekend has anything useful or meaningful to say about 9/11.
posted by koeselitz at 1:00 PM on February 9, 2010


koeselitz chill OUT. I read the links. I also read this part:

They aren’t simply saying, “Put down the champagne, let’s go play tennis.” They’re saying, “Put down the razor blade, let’s go play tennis.”


So koeselitz, put the razor blade down buddy. Your condescension in this thread really SUCKS.
posted by pwally at 1:00 PM on February 9, 2010


Here are some things I dont think would be possible were it not for vamp week getting very popular:

Extra Golden tour
Born Ruffians -- Barnacle Goose
This is Ivy Leagues ouevre
the phrase UHB (or do i have that backwards?)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:05 PM on February 9, 2010


cyphill: “Koeselitz - hey there buddy, might be time to relax...”

Shepherd: “koeselitz, that would probably go down a lot smoother if you weren't making broad angry assumptions about people...”

pwally: “koeselitz chill OUT... So koeselitz, put the razor blade down buddy. Your condescension in this thread really SUCKS.”

Yes, it is indeed unfortunate how condescending I've been to people in this thread.
posted by koeselitz at 1:08 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Potomac Avenue, also this great song.
posted by audacity at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


See, none of this stuff about having bourgeoisie anxiety and the game and all that speaks a whole lot to me, because I'm just coming at this from the perspective of a guy who actually regularly gets in-boxes full of emails from guys working the indie music PR circuit trying to pitch advertising in Hipster Zine X, and all I know is, it's pretty clear how the music press works: in general, they review whoever pays the bills (whether that tab is picked up by a third-party like a label, by a PR firm directing ad revenue their way by referral, or otherwise). It's not always a direct quid pro quo, but it's a pretty obvious part of how it works (there are even a couple of indie press outlets that admit as much in their submission guidelines). And who they review is, generally speaking, who ends up getting the adoring fans. That alone sucks, but it's only one small aspect of a much larger totality of suck. If you're talented and rich, the world's your oyster. Bully for you. Congratulations. You rock. You don't need my help to succeed, so what do you care.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2010


The comparison to debates over NIN/Tool vs. 311 is apt, to my mind -- because while you can frame that as "dark" vs. "happy" music, the argument can more properly be characterized as "good" vs. "bad" music. Dark does NOT equal good, but let's face it here: 311 doesn't equal good, either. NIN and Tool are not better than 311 because NIN and Tool are dark; NIN and Tool are better than 311 because 311 is terrible. I like a great deal of very upbeat music, but I do not like Vampire Weekend. I would not like a "dark" Vampire Weekend. I would only like the absence of Vampire Weekend! I would like Vampire Weekend to go away to a place where they can be very happy and also I will not have to ever hear or see them again. I wish Vampire Weekend no ill will!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:20 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can't really blame a kid who chooses to listen to Taylor Swift over Vampire Weekend.

I can always blame anyone who defends 311, though. Christ.
posted by furiousthought at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I never really understand the "your favorite band sucks" compulsion. Neither do I get the comments that point out how silly that compulsion is, only to go "oh but don't worry I have cred I don't think they're good or anything!"

This article is a bit silly, but so are most of the responses here.

Let people enjoy the art they want to enjoy. Vampire Weekend not being in the world wouldn't suddenly make your favorite unappreciated band a mega-hit.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:27 PM on February 9, 2010


This thread needs more Hallelujah Chicken Run Band.
posted by thivaia at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was in my teens, twenties and early thirties, things like who the artist was, where they were from, their background were very important to me. Didn't matter what the art form was, music, film, photography or whatever. I was very invested in the authenticity of the artist and knowing their story helped me sort that out. Looking back I realize it was a way to suss out the posers and fakes. I also realize that I probably was too quick to dismiss a lot of people's work, because over the last couple of years, I've found myself liking a lot of stuff that I viewed as unworthy when I was younger.

Now, in my early forties, this stuff matters only in the sense that it provides a limited amount of interesting context. I'm more inclined to let the art stand for itself. I look to art (and I'm using the term to mean all types of public creative endeavor) to give me enjoyment, make me think or provide a window on the world in some way. I like VW, I find their songs catchy, fun, with some interesting twists in their music. Others don't like them -- so it goes.

Purity tests about socio-economic background or frat/non-frat seem silly to me now. If you like their music, great! If you don't, good for you! Why does the socio-economic class they're from matter? If it does matter, then where do you draw the line: can only those from the middle/lower socio-economic rungs play good music? Why stop with class, why shouldn't other aspects of the performer's background be important? Should only those who grew up within 100 miles of the Mississippi river sing/play delta blues? Should only those who have spent a required minimum number of hours in Ireland or Scotland be the only ones to play celtic music?

The article and the comments in the thread haven't done a good job explaining to me why any of this is relevant when I've got VW's music on the speakers while I clean house (or cook, or relax or whatever). Nor did the article convince me that VW's music had anything but the most tenuous tie to 9/11. And I still don't understand all the VW hate (at least the hate stemming from their background -- I can understand why musically they're not everyone's cup of tea).
posted by cptspalding at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Vampire Weekend not being in the world wouldn't suddenly make your favorite unappreciated band a mega-hit.

*Begins formulating conspiracy theory that Vampire Weekend have been slowly killing off members of Radiation 4 in order to eat their hearts and gain their strength*
posted by Greg Nog at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't really blame a kid who chooses to listen to Taylor Swift over Vampire Weekend.

But Taylor Swift and VW are two sides of the same coin.

I think all saulgoodman is trying to emphasize is the difference between what in politics is called astroturfing as opposed to genuine grassroots movements. And both T Swift and VW benefit from the former not the latter.

OTOH I can't think of any band in years that has been propelled to fame based on word of mouth and dedicated fans.
posted by Max Power at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to school with Vampire Weekend.

Don't be so crass, in mixed company you say, "I went to school in a town near Vampire Weekend"
posted by geoff. at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sorry for any and all GRAR, stepping out of thread in 5... 4... 3... 2...
posted by koeselitz at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2010


koeslitz, they recently covered a Rancid song on a radio session, which is owning up to their ska influence. And that's about as un-cool as anything a trendy band could do right now, I'd say. You could say that's calculated to be so un-cool as to generate coolness, but it's also honest: being about the same age and demographic as them, "Ruby Soho" was a part of the time and age in which musical tastes are formed. The African influence is at least third-hand (via their parents' record colllection, via P. Simon, via Eno, Talking Heads, whoever), which I think is more culturally honest than 95% of "worldly" music out there. They're making white, North American pop-rock with touches showing varied influences. We live in the information age; everyone has heard a lot of music by the time they graduate college. Pretending to be some purist '70s-rock Luddite isn't "authentic" to many.

And everyone should read the link posted above.
posted by ism at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2010


I listen to Afrobeat, I know Afrobeat, Afrobeat is a friend of mine. Vampire Weekend, you're no Afrobeat.

(Love the abbreviation, by the way--I wonder if there's a correlation between liking VW and liking VW.)
posted by box at 1:44 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I should never have gotten tangled up in the thread. I wasn't kidding about this thread aggravating my ulcer.

I don't hate VM, but I do hate what's happening to indie music right now (hint: non-rich people are being excluded a lot more than they used to be, and this is a view that's been confirmed to me by plenty of others like me who've been doing the whole indie music thing for many, many years now), and VM are a convenient representative of this trend.

Also, I personally still prefer art that connects somehow to the life of the artist (which is why Elvis Costello's Veronica, for instance, still brings a tear to my eye every damn time). But obviously, that's not everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine with me. I'm only trying to explain my own knee-jerk animus toward VM here, not trying to convince anyone their favorite band sucks.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:46 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry to be hating on their publicity, but NO ONE from Bronxville died as a result of September 11th. Nearby Tuckahoe, yes, but Bronxville, no.
posted by redfisch at 1:47 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of any band in years that has been propelled to fame based on word of mouth and dedicated fans.

Arctic Monkeys?
posted by tigrefacile at 1:48 PM on February 9, 2010


I think all saulgoodman is trying to emphasize is the difference between what in politics is called astroturfing as opposed to genuine grassroots movements. And both T Swift and VW benefit from the former not the latter.

OTOH I can't think of any band in years that has been propelled to fame based on word of mouth and dedicated fans.


Oh thank God! I actually managed to convey my point to someone. Now I can quit. Yikes.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread needs more Hallelujah Chicken Run Band.

Also more Franco
posted by Erberus at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2010




Here are some things I dont think would be possible were it not for vamp week getting very popular:


Also, these guys, whose record features a guest spot by Ezra Koenig (But only on one track, so don't let that stop you from listening).

I don't really care for Vampire Weekend. I don't care that they're frat boys. It's just that I prefer my twee with bad teeth and anoraks.
posted by thivaia at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2010


Well lets turn this into a music exposure thread........

At this link are some files I share with my son. My Files They are:

False Hearted Lover Blues by Levon Helm
Album: Dirt Farmer

River Of No Return by Marilyn Monroe
Limited Single

Smoke Rings In The Dark by Gary Allan
Album: Greatest Hits

Smoking Gun by The Robert Cray Band
Album: Strong Persuader

Stone River by JJ Cale
Album: To Tulsa And Back

A strange mix but then I am strange.

I like William Elliott Whitmore just because and I really like Shooter Jennings. A second generation player.
posted by bjgeiger at 1:52 PM on February 9, 2010


chesty_a_arthur: "Your local gamelan orchestra is 99% guaranteed not to be ripping off black music. Other than that, pal, you are shit out of luck."

I'd go so far as to say that if you're not ripping off black music, you're doing it wrong.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:56 PM on February 9, 2010


the phrase UHB

When I first saw Metropolitan (last year, on DVD), I immediately thought of Vampire Weekend.
posted by acb at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2010


I think all saulgoodman is trying to emphasize is the difference between what in politics is called astroturfing as opposed to genuine grassroots movements. And both T Swift and VW benefit from the former not the latter.

Is this true or is it just a guess? Can anybody point out some early VW astroturfing? I know they had a lot of blog buzz, but don't really know the details of how that buzz developed, exactly.
posted by avianism at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2010


In case anyone coming in here late for some favourite-band-sucksing misses it, the best and most insightful part of the thread by far is that essay on The Game that avianism linked to.
posted by gompa at 2:02 PM on February 9, 2010


Is this true or is it just a guess? Can anybody point out some early VW astroturfing? I know they had a lot of blog buzz, but don't really know the details of how that buzz developed, exactly.

Having written one or two large checks to PR companies and the music press, you can trust me on this: It's nearly all astro-turfing, to use that metaphor. Yes, you do have to be talented, but that's just the barrier for getting the right people to take your money, not a ticket to the kingdom.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2010


I have never entered a music thread here that didn't have 20 comments saying that Band X was obviously terrible, and their fans obviously desperate hipsters. Can we have a blanket POPULAR MUSIC IS POPULAR disclaimer?
posted by droob at 2:11 PM on February 9, 2010


I have never entered a music thread here that didn't have 20 comments saying that Band X was obviously terrible, and their fans obviously desperate hipsters. Can we have a blanket POPULAR MUSIC IS POPULAR disclaimer?


Jeez, that's like telling a jogger's forum that the scenery on their morning run is going to be the same as yesterday. It's the running they crave, not a variegated vista.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a jogger, I can assure you that what I crave is a satisfying simile to warm down to.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:26 PM on February 9, 2010


Recent New Yorker article: School of Rock (January 4, 2010) [Abstract. Subscription registration required for online version of article.]
posted by ericb at 2:38 PM on February 9, 2010


What interests me here is a lot more the political aspect than the somewhat staid musical 'authenticity' argument.

Perhaps the fact that Gavin is writing for an ostensibly conservative publication alongside fucking Pat Buchanan shouldnt give me pause, but what about the way he, and the publisher in his statement, are snatching the sincerity highground from those who've been occupying that hill for the past decade, zee liberals? In 2007 that would have seemed absurd, now I'm not so sure.

As someone noted above, Gen Xers typically prided themselves on being cynical in the 90s while Gen Yers prided themselves on death-defying positivity throughout this decade. David Eggers, Judd Apatow, various internet innocent ^_^ memes, a lot of the best stuff of this decade has contained this message that McInnes points to at the end of the article..."Things are really terrible in the world, but lets not give up hope and spend our time beating our chests with guilt--lets have fun and try hard to change for the better--we can and should succeed!" Inevitably these messages stood in opposition to the neo-cons cynical, anti-democratic, lowbrow elitist message of fear and hater-mongering. Even someone as tongue-in-cheek faux-snobby as VW seemed like a Obama infomercial.

But then Obama won. And the sniping started. And the infighting, and the continuing bathetic devolution of the mainstream right to point where the left's attacks look like beating a dead horse. And suddenly identifying VW's cultural resonance with a conservative reactionary life-affirming outlook doesn't sound as stupid. It's puzzling, but also worrying if you care about progress (and believe that pop culture and politics are inextricably entwined at a distance like conjoined sides of a DNA strand) since smart conservatives will be doing exactly these two things: abusing the failures of the neo-cons of the past while seizing the scappy happy rebel role that the left has been monopolizing while out of power. Putting the "pro" back in pro-life.

Meanwhile someone just sent me this video, apropos the massive destruction headed my way in DC, of people having a grand old time in the snow. Whatever else happens, that's the side I'm on.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I didn't realize you could smell smug, but that article reeked of it.

I'm not a fan of VW but I got nothing against them really. What I do have something against is comments to the tune of "you can't really be enjoying this music, the only reason you like it is because you think it makes you look cool."

That's a standard sentiment in places like the AVClub comment boards, but I really didn't expect to see it here.
posted by chaff at 2:55 PM on February 9, 2010


I also want to say that I more or less agree with saulgoodman in this thread. It's cool if you don't care how your favorite band got famous, or why, and you just want to enjoy the sounds, that's great, more power to you. But he is correct that today's "indie" landscape is essentially dominated by those who can afford to buy it.

It's like saying you don't care that the Yankees dominate baseball because of the size of their collective pocketbook, you just want to watch the game and it's silly to ruin your own enjoyment of it with those kinds of thoughts. Again, bully for you and enjoy, but that doesn't make the truth behind the situation any less true.
posted by chaff at 3:09 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, pointing to someone and proclaiming that they are "wasting their lives" is wasting your life.

Oh crap. Now I'm doing it. This is that Game avianism's article was talking about, right?
posted by straight at 3:15 PM on February 9, 2010


And suddenly identifying VW's cultural resonance with a conservative reactionary life-affirming outlook doesn't sound as stupid. It's puzzling, but also worrying if you care about progress (and believe that pop culture and politics are inextricably entwined at a distance like conjoined sides of a DNA strand)

This is right on. Vampire Weekend will, for me anyway, stand or fall in the long term based on whatever they do next, now that they've been co-opted by the culture that it seems (to me, anyway... I guess this is a minority opinion here.) they set themselves up to observe, comment on, and critique.
posted by avianism at 3:16 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay I started writing a whole paragraph here but ugh nuts to it. Here's their newest video, which I think is fairly awesome.
Basically- as someone who lacks class and family connections, working in an industry where those connections are extremely important- I can understand seeing Vampire Weekend as a symbol of industry connections triumphing over skill. But, uh, nobody has actually shown me any sign that they've bought their way to the top or anything. I mean, I understand that they all went to...Columbia, right? But all of the guys in Grizzly Bear went to NYU, and nobody just off the bat assumes that their dads own Rolling Stone.
posted by 235w103 at 3:18 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm always the last person to hear about new popular music. I remember going "Postal Service, wha...?" and then "Lady Gaga, wha...?" Now it's Owl City this, and Vampire Weekend that, and I'm still sitting here on my lawn, listening to Rick James and Pink Floyd and Run-DMC and even (on occasion) THE FRIGGING BEACH BOYS, and well, you hipster kids sure can be annoying.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:24 PM on February 9, 2010


It's cool if you don't care how your favorite band got famous, or why, and you just want to enjoy the sounds, that's great, more power to you. But he is correct that today's "indie" landscape is essentially dominated by those who can afford to buy it.

I have a follow up question for chaff and saulgoodman that further derails things from the article above so I'm reluctant to ask, but since the thread is pretty much completely derailed already...

What exactly is the indie landscape? What are the people who can afford to buy it buying? Hasn't the ease of making/distributing music on the cheap outside of the traditional labels/power structure changed the dynamic any?

Not doubting your assertions, just seeking clarification
posted by cptspalding at 3:36 PM on February 9, 2010


some people happen to think that the Strokes are a boring, weak band.

I am neutral about the subject of the post I posted, but this is patently false. Years have tested the Strokes (especially their criticallyoverlooked but now staunchly admired 3rd record) and found them more than able to absorb any haterays and make them into fuel. Time to pack up the equipment on that front.


Well, I never got past the boringness of the first album. I just always found them to be extraordinarily average. Anyway, I'm not trying to convince you of anything - I only mention them because they are mentioned in the article. In any event, making claims that someone's opinion of a band is either patently true or patently false is totally ridiculous. You are reminding me of the guy who once tried to explain to me that Frank Zappa made the objectively best music of the 20th century. And he really really stressed the objective part.
posted by molecicco at 4:06 PM on February 9, 2010


Captain Spaulding...That would be an awesome askme question hint hint. "How do indie rock bands get popular"?

There is a system, that I on the media side of things only can guess at, wherein certain bands who are picked by certain booking agents or publicists get mentioned in the most popular blogs all at the same time while those agents buy adspace for different (or even the self-same) bands and/or partner with those blogs on SXSW showcases or local shows by those bands thus garnishing the very popular but utterly broke writers a small % of the $ generated by the bands.

The thing is, A. This has been going on since, well, since pop music, the only difference being instead of the right producer or record company exec paying off the radio stations on behalf of the poor teenagers whom he scooped out of nothing, now sometimes the wealthy 20somethings pay these publicists with their own money instead of getting advanced by the record company. The Wave of Money under the Wall of Sound.

HOWEVER B. These tastemaking publicists and agents wont take any rich dick that knocks on the door--they have to be original or talented or hot or somehow high quality appealing. So for every well-off well-connected group like VW or Grizzly Bear theres a bunch of more humble beginnings folks like TV On the Radio or Be Your Own Pet who through luck and expertise managed to garner the attention of the right people at the right time and zip through the same (possibly crooked) channels, to be exploited fairly as products in the marketplace as they so humbly desire.

In the end some great bands will be ignored because of politics or bad luck, and some hacks will get minor success because of personal wealth or connections. But tastemakers are only as good as their credibility, and even if only certain modestly talented bands gets promoted, utter shit will not find purchase and many immense original talents will rise on their own merits. If the game is rigged, it's hardly the fault of the players, whatever their flaws. Blame the owners, and the general managers and the ever-greedy, ever-fickle fans.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone noted above, Gen Xers typically prided themselves on being cynical in the 90s while Gen Yers prided themselves on death-defying positivity throughout this decade. David Eggers, Judd Apatow, various internet innocent ^_^ memes, a lot of the best stuff of this decade has contained this message that McInnes points to at the end of the article..."Things are really terrible in the world, but lets not give up hope and spend our time beating our chests with guilt--lets have fun and try hard to change for the better--we can and should succeed!"

By what conceivable reasoning are Dave Eggers (born 1970) and Judd Apatow (born 1967) members of Generation Y? They are Gen Xers who produce media largely consumed by Gen Xers.
posted by enn at 4:13 PM on February 9, 2010


And btw, among the conspiracy theories, this is the strongest link.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2010


enn: Sorry I was unclear, I meant them as purveyors of a certain kind of "indie" sincerity that is mass popular among Gen Y (and X but more in line with Y's general attitude if we're generalizing) not as members of either.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:17 PM on February 9, 2010


Good reply to cptspaulding from Potomac, here's my two pennies:

By "indie landscape" I meant a combination of the most popular music blogs (Pitchfork, Stereogum, AVClub, a bunch of others I am not hip enough to know about) plus more importantly the city newsweeklies operated by Village Voice Media.

Now I could be wrong about how this whole thing works, but lets take an example from last year - the band Wavves. The week their record came out, it was simultaneously hyped all over the nation by at least a dozen sources. I'm pretty confident that this didn't happen because a dozen different music writers simultaneously pulled the record out of the stacks of material on their desks and "discovered" it. It happened because someone in the Wavves camp spent a fat stack of cash to make it happen.

This isn't to say that Wavves is a bad artist (you can make up your own mind, most of the critical response was generally positive), and Potomac is quite correct that this has been the model since DJs started taking cash under the table to spin 45s . . or most likely much earlier.

He's also correct that spending money doesn't guarantee success, and I'm sure there are bands in every town who have thrown cash at publicists for years with no results. You do have to have some good songs and some talent, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

Would VW have achieved similar success without being rich? Quite possibly, with enough determination and persistence. They had music that people want to hear. Should we care whether an artist started their career by throwing wads of cash around? I think that's a more complex question and gets into how one feels about capitalism in general.
posted by chaff at 4:29 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm officially getting old, because I don't seem to "get" VW. I got their album a few years ago upon the recommendation of a friend younger by about a decade. He's not a very passionate guy, but he was downright glowing about this band. I got it, and listened to it...and I guess I'm getting old. They sound, to me, like a lot of other bands out there these days: 80s pop that has been re-integrated into 2000s pop (that 20 year cycle and all), add in a healthy dose of twee. So there's a lot of current bands out there that sound like Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, The Police, New Order...only less interesting.

VW is ok music and completely forgettable. Oh, and McInnes should have to write "I will not draw tenuous comparisons with 9/11 and anything else" 1,000 times on the blackboard. And he has to write "anything" in italics.
posted by zardoz at 4:37 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll just third the recommendation for avanism's essay. Good read.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:39 PM on February 9, 2010


Hey, can we get back on topic here, which is how ASTOUNDINGLY bad McInness' article is, just in its writing, leaving aside content? Jeebus! I didn't think anything was going to make my mind be able unread that Liz Phair NASCAR piece from The Atlantic, but Mr. Tragic Aging Hipster made that possible. So thanks, Gavin! The future as seen from my past is now restored!

Also, everyone's favorite band sucks.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:45 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm always the last person to hear about new popular music.

The problem isn't with you. There's enough music already out there that people could just stop making it and there'd still be enough for each of us to comb through and enjoy for the rest of our lives.

I like trying to follow new sounds, but I get pretty impatient with the progress of pop music, each new act only allowed to be just *so* different from anything before. It will take a million years to get anywhere interesting at that pace.
posted by hermitosis at 4:53 PM on February 9, 2010


This is a well-reasoned, intelligent argument. Unfortunately, Vampire Weekend's music remains abysmal.
posted by Football Bat at 5:12 PM on February 9, 2010


Damn, people basically just write Wes Anderson's soundtracks for him these days.
posted by clockzero at 5:26 PM on February 9, 2010


I'll never get the VW hate. It's pretty catchy! And most of their songs are about anti-elitism. Just because someone rhymes "balaclava" with "aranciata" makes them hoi polli? I thought we hated anti-intellectualism? Or do we hate anti-anti-intellectualism? Is this irony? I'm lost.
posted by GilloD at 5:37 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: Uh...regarding Be Your Own Pet:

With a firmly established lineup and new name, Be Your Own Pet began working on demos with a handful of producers, including Jacquire King and Jamin and Jake's father, singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall. (The rest of BYOP's members also have musical pedigrees: Jemina Pearl's father is rock photographer Jimmy Abegg, Vasquez is the son of guitarist Raphael Vasquez, and Stein's father is manager Burt Stein.)

Maybe not the best example of people who made it with the sweat of their brow.
posted by 235w103 at 5:43 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, people basically just write Wes Anderson's soundtracks for him these days.

Haha, I agree with this analysis.* Vampire Weekend even use Futura (which makes me think "Wes Anderson") on their album covers, in this video, and they even name-drop Futura in this song.

How can so many people in this thread so dislike a band with such good taste in fonts?

* as a Vampire Weekend fan, even
posted by audacity at 5:44 PM on February 9, 2010


previously in people writing Wes Anderson's soundtracks for him
posted by audacity at 5:48 PM on February 9, 2010


When did this idea that indie rock is becoming the domain of rich kids spring up? I've seen it mentioned several times in this thread, and it just seems flat-out wrong. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be happening. Blogs and the Internet have made it much easier for bands to bypass traditional corporate channels and market directly to the fans. The result is that for the first time in decades, there's a real "middle class" of rock musicians. Bands are able to earn a healthy living and achieve some level of national prominence through touring and making good music, while entertaining no serious hopes of ever striking it mega-rich as bands of the past have. The much-hyped Brooklyn music scene -- currently the major indie scene in the country, unless it's already moved on -- seems to be structured around exactly this model. Vampire Weekend seems less a symbol of some kind of dire trend in indie rock than an anomaly and a bit of holdover -- one of the last bands to be promoted and supported by the traditional corporate machine.
posted by decoherence at 5:54 PM on February 9, 2010


Also, The Strokes? Pretty damn good, actually. Nothing gets a crowd of 20-somethings dancing faster in a dark, sweaty bar than cranking up "Last Night," which is saying a lot for a record that's going on 10 years now.
posted by decoherence at 5:59 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing is, A. This has been going on since, well, since pop music, the only difference being instead of the right producer or record company exec paying off the radio stations on behalf of the poor teenagers whom he scooped out of nothing, now sometimes the wealthy 20somethings pay these publicists with their own money instead of getting advanced by the record company. The Wave of Money under the Wall of Sound.

HOWEVER B. These tastemaking publicists and agents wont take any rich dick that knocks on the door--they have to be original or talented or hot or somehow high quality appealing. So for every well-off well-connected group like VW or Grizzly Bear theres a bunch of more humble beginnings folks like TV On the Radio or Be Your Own Pet who through luck and expertise managed to garner the attention of the right people at the right time and zip through the same (possibly crooked) channels, to be exploited fairly as products in the marketplace as they so humbly desire.


Potomac: You've got the basic picture about right. A couple points I'd add, though.

As you might have noticed, music as an industry is looking like a more and more risky proposition from a pure business investment perspective these days. It's understandable, given the shaky economy and all the chaos in the way music revenue streams are generated and collected, that those who normally step up to provide the capital for wonderful things like indie music are more reluctant to make serious financial investments in new and emerging artists. In most cases, they'll lose money anyway, even if the band is what used to be considered relatively popular (selling between 10,000--15,000 copies of an album in a year, say, like the last Crooked Fingers record did in its first year). And the rich don't get that way by making investments that lose money.

As a result of the climate of economic uncertainty, people just aren't willing to take chances on artists who haven't yet broken through to a much wider audience on their own. So of course labels are going to be more willing to work with act that have the resources to break themselves or that have other non-purely musical assets to work with. It isn't a conspiracy or a plot, it's just economics, but it sucks. I've been in the painful position of having all the basic elements in place (booking and PR connections, etc.), to help several other friends try to get where they wanted to go in their careers (among other things, we landed one of them a pretty tepid--and I think a little weirdly focused on the group's appearance--review in the Onion AVClub, among other things) only to lack the financial resources to really accomplish much for them.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to money. If you want real results, you need a lot of it. There's no getting around that.

When people with money of their own play, they play with a strong home field advantage, having both greater access to the financial resources needed and generally to the personal connections needed to get ahead. I just can't argue with my own experiences, and those experiences tell me its getting much harder for the artist starting out with neither.

It's a fair point that none of that stuff is VW's fault. But it's still no less pressing a social justice issue how the economics are shaking out at the ground level.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:06 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


For being right I suppose.

The only thing I'd disagree about is the amount that the bands families money actually comes into play. If you or anyone could prove to me that vw or byop's influential or rich parents actually paid for anything substantial rather than getting scooped up and paid for by the agents who stood to profit off them then I'd be sympathetic to your complaints. As it stands tho, plenty of rich kids play in bands. Plenty of middle class kids play in bands. Blaming the winners for be good at the game (particularly ones that don't bother hiding their backgrounds like these ivy kids[at least they're not trying to front like they're working class Punx or something {cf Good Charlotte}]) is counterproductive and clouds the real issues of 'major' indies like sub pop and their cronies crowding out the smaller labels and firms.

And in the end it's about business--which as every businessman knows isn't based on money. It's based on personal relationships. What sets these up is money, but also time, and salesmanship, and cleverness and creativity. Keep fighting man, don't let em beat you down.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:58 PM on February 9, 2010


Just because someone rhymes "balaclava" with "aranciata" makes them hoi polli?

FYI, hoi polloi means the opposite of what you think it does.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:46 PM on February 9, 2010


They're just a terrible band. Bland, insipid, boring. More power to them and their success but stop telling me I don't get it.
posted by bardic at 8:06 PM on February 9, 2010


Maybe not the best example of people who made it with the sweat of their brow.

But see, for me, this only reinforces my firmly-held conviction that my intense dislike for VW has nothing to do with their pedigree, because I loved Be Your Own Pet. For that matter, in another medium entirely, I love Joe Hill, who is in about...umm...as privileged a position as any young writer of pop fiction possibly could be. Fact is, as far anyone's aware, Hill is writing his own work (and writing one hell of a lot of it), BYOP recorded their own albums and toured like hell behind them, and the work is what really matters, right? It's just, you know: I hate Vampire Weekend's work. That they worked I would not take away from them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:23 PM on February 9, 2010


By "indie landscape" I meant a combination of the most popular music blogs (Pitchfork, Stereogum, AVClub, a bunch of others I am not hip enough to know about) plus more importantly the city newsweeklies operated by Village Voice Media.


Or the cynic's form, in convenient wall chart format.
posted by kersplunk at 8:31 PM on February 9, 2010


And in the end it's about business--which as every businessman knows isn't based on money. It's based on personal relationships. What sets these up is money, but also time, and salesmanship, and cleverness and creativity. Keep fighting man, don't let em beat you down.

You're right, of course. The money part of it has finally just gotten too frustrating for me, I'm afraid. The label is folding up shop, mostly. We may keep the back catalog active online. Our last actively touring band just broke up, and we're not really going to do much else, unless my wife and I decide to put something else of our own out or something. Things change. Who knows. I'll always keep doing music myself, whether anyone listens or not. But that's a luxury of mine. It's good to have a day job.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:40 PM on February 9, 2010


Every time I find myself getting upset about Vampire Weekend, I listen to Yeasayer. Yeasayer: Same influences, better music.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2010


I tried spinning this record and the ultimate hustler appeared and said the singer had so much money it looked like a collection plate and I was like damn
posted by kid ichorous at 5:00 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


OTOH I can't think of any band in years that has been propelled to fame based on word of mouth and dedicated fans.

I know the "indie" genre better than others, but I'm sure there are a lot of bands like that.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Rural Alberta Advantage spring to mind. Farther back ... Mates of State? The Mountain Goats?

As does (though not from "recent" years) Ani DiFranco.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2010


I know the "indie" genre better than others, but I'm sure there are a lot of bands like that.

Mates of State, The Mountain Goats, and pretty much all those other bands didn't just establish themselves within the last couple of years. My last band opened for the Mountain Goats when they were catching their second wind something like 5 years ago. (We played with Mates of State, too, shortly after their first child was born, and they'd already been long established by then.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2010


FYI, hoi polloi means the opposite of what you think it does.

♪ Who gives a fuck about Attic Greek ♫
posted by atrazine at 4:57 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mates of State, The Mountain Goats, and pretty much all those other bands didn't just establish themselves within the last couple of years.

Well, he/she didn't say "last couple of years," he/she said "I can't think of any band in years that has been propelled to fame based on word of mouth and dedicated fans" ... I took that to mean 15-20. shrug.

And I (in a band) "opened" for Mates of State in a SOMA loft in 1998. Everyone knew then that they were fucking great and had the potential to make it big. However, I never thought they would. It blew me away to see them at the Greek.

Why did they make it big? I would say (aside from talent, great songs, and great performances) word of mouth and dedicated fans were surely essential to their success. ymmv.

And I'm not a huge fan, but CYHSY seems like the quintessential example of a grassroots-powered band hitting the bigtime. No Age? Lily Allen?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:16 PM on February 11, 2010


What a bizarre thread. Not to say the FPPed article was brilliant or anything, but a lot of people hating on it seem to be lacking in context re this band and the critical responses directed towards them. This article is part of the dialogue that's been going around this band for one reason or another since they came out.

Also the hipster runoff chart that kersplunk linked to is really good.

I pretty much agree with what saulgoodman was saying. For folks who want this in more concrete terms, check out this bit about music PR companies. Sometimes record labels do their own PR, sometimes they contract with PR agencies. You send your record to one of these groups, and if they like it they will offer to promote it for e.g. 8 weeks for 6 grand. They then put their stamp on it and send it out to radio stations, magazines, newspapers, and bloggers. Once a music blog starts to get big it comes to the attention of the PR companies who start sending them stuff. I have a little direct experience here. I will say that having a PR agency promoting my record didn't rocket me to the big-time -- although who knows what would've happened if I hadn't run out of money and could've kept the wheels turning -- but it got me much more of a response than I've gotten for the record which I promoted on my own, even from a lot of the same people who wrote about the first one.

PR agencies, along with booking agencies (like the Windish Agency mentioned above, or Billions) and record labels will also book space at major festivals like SXSW and CMJ so that their bands can play there.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Rural Alberta Advantage spring to mind.

Do you know for sure what happened with these bands, though? I mean, this goes both ways and is maybe just a general argument against putting too much weight on the specifics of a band's rise to prominence, but it's hard to say what really happened unless you were there, as people don't usually like to talk about this sort of thing openly. Obviously it's generally to a band's advantage if they're seen to have succeeded solely through talent and persistence even if that's not the case. And often it's not just either "band succeeded through money/connections" or "band succeeded through gradually-growing fanbase" but some kind of combination thereof. I think this stuff has been solidifying more and more in the past 5-7 years, with the rise of the whole mp3-blog culture, but then again I probably lack perspective as I wasn't around watching this stuff much before then.

Anyhow, as far as I know CYHSY's record was self-released and they blew up after pitchfork raved about them. Pitchfork rarely reviews self-released records. Why they chose to spotlight CYHSY, how exactly they got their hands on it to begin with, I'm not sure. RAA also self-released, but I think got picked for some kind of editor's choice spotlight by emusic -- again I don't know the details. emusic then hosted a showcase at SXSW 2009 which featured Girls (who also went on to blow up) and Rural Alberta advantage opening for Grizzly Bear, who were already critically-adored and drew a big crowd. Girls and RAA both received extremely favorably coverage of their SXSW sets (although I'm pretty sure both played a whole bunch of times at the festival -- I don't know who was doing their booking at the time or anything) and went on to do really well. Fleet Foxes are another recent phenom band that seemed to come out of nowhere, but their first record was made with established northwest indie producer Phil Ek. I seem to recall reading that there was a prior connection there, but again I don't really know. And Fleet Foxes are legitimately very talented.

Anyway, I guess the point is a lot of things can do into a band getting big, it's hard to tell exactly what's happening when you're observing from a distance, and money and connections definitely don't hurt.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also I think Vampire Weekend are pretty good but you should listen to my band instead of them.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you know for sure what happened with these bands, though?

I think you're asking for a level of omniscience that even the bands themselves do not have.

Pitchfork, emusic, etc -- those are all egg-chicken situations to me. Did Pitchfork write about CYHSY b/c they were blowing up, or did they blow up b/c of Pitchfork? Did emusic focus on RAA as their October 2009 artist of the month because they were blowing up (the music had been self-released for quite a while by then), or did they blow up b/c emusic picked them? In both cases, I would guess the former.

I think there are plenty of examples of artists getting big based on word of mouth and dedicated fans, and then labels/distributors jumping on the bandwagon. I mean the label system has been the method of distribution for 99% of professional musicians for 50 years, so artists are naturally going to buy into it once they get ... big enough by word of mouth and dedicated fans. We may be arguing a semantic issue, but I think plenty of acts make it big without inherent marketing/distribution advantages.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:43 AM on February 12, 2010


I think you're asking for a level of omniscience that even the bands themselves do not have.

Pitchfork, emusic, etc -- those are all egg-chicken situations to me. Did Pitchfork write about CYHSY b/c they were blowing up, or did they blow up b/c of Pitchfork? Did emusic focus on RAA as their October 2009 artist of the month because they were blowing up (the music had been self-released for quite a while by then), or did they blow up b/c emusic picked them? In both cases, I would guess the former.


I disagree that it takes omniscience to figure this stuff out or that the bands themselves don't know the answers. I don't think we can figure it out from where we're sitting, though. But I'm perplexed as to why you'd guess that e.g. Pitchfork's review of CYHSY was somehow a response to them blowing up. Their review of the first CYHSY album appeared on June 21, 2005. Here is the google trends report for CYHSY in 2005.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:33 PM on February 12, 2010


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