Vampire Weekend, Astoria, London

Emma Field
Tuesday 29 January 2008 01:00
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With a name likeVampire Weekend, one would not be expecting to see a band comprising Upper West Side Ivy Leaguers, best known for their affection for deck shoes, yachting and cardigans. Something spooky is going on when a band member's father standing at the side of the stage looks sharper than his son. One of the most hotly tipped bands for 2008, whose self-titled debut album has only just come out, Vampire Weekend don't carry much of the cool of their forebears The Strokes. Not that the audience mind: the up-to-the-minute young indie fans, from punks to skinny-jeaned rockers to bearded folksters, along with some of the band's old mates from Columbia University, are already bitten.

What Vampire Weekend's name does playfully allude to is their leisurely and parasitical relationship with African pop music – soukous, hi-life and juju – a style that makes them very much a part of the indie- guitar-pop zeitgeist. The freshness of their sound brings light and tropical optimism to the edginess of the punk-funk, new-wave stylings of the past few years, similar to how The Clash, Blondie and The Police appropriated reggae. Graceland-era Paul Simon colours the other side of their musical spectrum. In contrast to these musical giants, though, Vampire Weekend are amateurish, naive and apolitical – endearingly so. There is about them something of the youthful innocence of the 1950s.

Front-man Ezra Koenig resembles a young Split Enz-era Neil Finn, playing his high-strapped guitar with the lightness of a puppet and singing with a squeaky, clear voice that jumps up for some falsetto ooohs. But a certain savvy and irony lies behind their bubbly exterior. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" seems to acknowledge the quirkiness of their simple Afropop formulas with the refrain "But this seems so unnatural/ Peter Gabriel too", while also noting that a love interest wears the "colours of Benetton". "Oxford Comma" questions the value of the eponymous grammatical feature, their first single, "Mansard Roof", shows off their knowledge of Western architecture and "M79" is about a New York City bus route. Theyintroduce beats, rhythms and melodies from afar but are still very much at home.

The audience doesn't swallow the world music whole and dance with abandon like their parents would at Womad, but with "A-Punk", the band are at their gleeful, frantic best. It's a crowd favourite – they've probably already seen the brilliantly giddy video.

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