Vampire Weekend and the accelerated speed of cool
|Artwork by Chris Strouth|
Makes No Sense At All captures the visions, ramblings, and memories of Chris Strouth, a Twin Cities-bred master of music, film, and everything else.
Vampire Weekend is an anomaly. A band that's as popular amongst the hipsters as it is the straights. It's one of the only bands that works at both American Eagle and American Apparel. They got a "cool" designation quickly, and have retained it.
Their 2008 self-titled debut was like a fresh breath into the hipster soundscape. It wasn't dark; it was smart, really smart, like a rock band for the Algonquin Round Table. They were almost target-marketed for lots of us: smart, preppie, with an alt sensibility and lyrics that mentions both classic literature and Lil Jon.
Vampire Weekend's newest release is Modern Vampires of the City and it's a fantastically interesting record. The result of them teaming with producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Major Lazer, Usher) is like if someone gave Animal Collective a tremendous amount of Ritalin, and sent them to finishing school. You almost have to be reminded that it's a little weird because it's so entertaining you're apt to forget.
It used to be that cool traveled slowly, at the speed of TV, and real cool at the speed of mail. How long it took for your Creem magazine to show up. In the '70s, TV sped things up a bit, but not much subculture made it there: exceptions being the "hoodlum rock" on WKRP in Cincinnati or the infamous Quincy M.E. punk episode. It wasn't until MTV become a fixture in most of American households that the speed of cool got crazy fast, and with the advent of the Internet, trends can come and go in a matter of days.
It also used to be that a label would help develop an artist, get them suited up and ready for the headfuck carnival that is pop life. They had a little bit of time to develop. It's the system that explains why folks like Tom Waits, the Flaming Lips and Bruce Springsteen are icons, as opposed to guys that put out one or two super oddball records that sold almost nothing, that a few collectors talk about in the recesses of a blog, with a fervor normally reserved for conversations on the nature of Star Trek vs Star Wars. Instead, we get more of a "what sticks to the wall, stays to the wall" mentality. Since what sticks to the wall tends to do so because it's super gloppy and gelatinous, it also means that it's not going to be humanity at its finest, and likely to leave a permanent stain
You might own the first record from the Futureheads, but how many had the next one, or for that matter remember the Futureheads? That follow up Ting Tings record? Go! Team? Black Kids? Anyone? Even bands like MGMT, who had moderate success, their follow-up wasn't a failure -- but it was far from a sensation. There will be another and maybe another, and then a new life writing music for video games. Or to quote a band that everyone has long since forgotten, the Godfathers: "Birth, School, Work, Death." By the way, they have a new record out too.