Elif Batuman’s recent piece in the Saturday Guardian’s Review section was unusual, in that music is rarely if ever covered there in and of itself, except as the subject of a book review. Elif’s in-depth analysis of Vampire Weekend’s leading light, Ezra Koenig, contains within it precisely the same ingredients which render the Vamps intensely irritating to some, namely their preppiness, the associated perception of an air of dominion over both the earth and the sum of its inhabitants’ knowledge, and apparently a blithe disregard for what the world might be like for the 99.9% of its population whose schooling was either non-existent or fell short (seriously or otherwise) of the preppy mark. But Elif gives much more than a glimpse behind both the hype and the pop surfaces of Vampire Weekend’s music, and in particular brings out Ezra’s pre-emptive refusal to allow his group to be straight-jacketed by the perceptions about their education and upbringing (a refusal I tried to elucidate here). Elif digs out the following quote from a blog Ezra kept in 2005-06:
‘What is authentic for a guy like me?… Growing up Jewish, you are presented with three images of your people:
– DESERT NOMADS BUILDING PYRAMIDS
– EASTERN-EUROPEAN SHTETL-DWELLERS WITH BIG BEARDS
– AMERICAN LIBERALS WHO EAT CHINESE FOOD ALL THE TIME
Now do you see where I’m coming from?’
The Vamps have already minted some great pop songs that leak, as James used to sing, down the left side, but Elif Batuman’s article suggests to me that their potential is greater than the goods delivered so far, assuming that they can keep their heads amid all the attention and don’t develop feet of clay.