29 days into 2008 and it's here. Sound the horn to call in your spies, the search is over. We may be a week late, but the
first second great record of this year is upon us and that's not just yet another NME prediction of greatness, this is the official Chimp opinion - and we're strict here. Cast your mind back to 2001 and your excitement at hearing The Strokes' debut Is This It. It wasn't an altogether new sound gracing your ears, it's musical reference points were unashamedly obvious but it represented a departure from the current music du jour that was gripping the scene. Well, Vampire Weekend is the self titled debut from this New York 4 piece and it sounds nothing like The Strokes but they are bedfellows for more profound reasons. It represents a similar departure and ironically enough this departure could be seen as the breakaway from the trend that Is This It started. The Strokes kick started a return to grimy indie bands belting out simple, well crafted guitar music and we've seen very little else ever since. Vampire Weekend do the opposite. Yes they're an indie 4 piece from New York but their sound reaches far wider and their references are refreshingly varied.
Gentle Afro-rhythms combine with cheap organs, jaunty drum beats and a vocal style so relaxed and unassuming it all makes for easy listening in the best possible way. Although Talking Heads does vaguely come to mind the rest of the reference points are rarely seen in today's indie scene. Paul Simon, The Police and Ski Sunday spring to mind and like someone who has drawn a head on a piece of paper, folded it over and passed it on for the next person to draw the body all these odd parts unfold into an astonishingly complete whole. If you're the type that needs genres to aid your musical appreciation fear not as the boys have done the work for you describing their sound as 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,' and 'Upper West Side Soweto.' It's Paul Simon but with Chevy Chase at his side keeping things light.
The other reason The Strokes' debut has been twinned with this one is the ease by which it seems to have been born. Songs like Oxford Comma with it's lounge-act style keyboards or the pogoing funk guitars of A-Punk drip forth like melting wax, nothing seems forced and no one seems to give a shit if it works or not. With a varied choice of themes like English grammar, preferred bus routs or American preppie fashion this is not your average record about love and loss. M79 is where my Ski Sunday reference crops up. Starting off with courtly 18th century harpsichord then slipping into a chorus of chamber music, this really shouldn't work. M79 is named after a Manhattan bus route which only adds to the confusion as this song evokes more cultures than is healthy in just over 4 minutes. The hymnal-meets-tribal thunder of I Stand Corrected shows a slightly more serious string to the bow and it leads on brilliantly to Walcott, the figurehead of this record. It's a furious steel-drum carnival of a song. Crashing cymbals and soaring melodies carry the repeated 'don't you want to get out of Cape Cod' chorus to new heights. It's dazzling and a shame it doesn't finish the album.
Vampire Weekend is good because it isn't trying to be good and it's different for the same reason. Not once do you get the impression that these world-rhythms and mismatched instruments have been employed because no one else has done it recently. It's effortless and it's joyously unaware of itself. We'll have to wait and see how the ultimate judge of time treats this little gem. These are simple pop songs and it's hard to say whether some may fall by the wayside but right now their simplicity and charm is exactly what we need. Their creativity and wealth of ideas is such that one listen to Vampire Weekend will get your mouth watering for their next album. Bring it on. This world needs more Ski Sunday-Afro Pop.