Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Xgau sets the record straight

The anti-Vampire Weekend backlash got a lesson in Afropop from the one crit that actually knows something about it a few days ago. In his new blog (he has a new blog?), Robert Christgau attacks several bloggers for getting VW's Afro-tinged references wrong. Several others have chipped in with similar sentiments (see links in Xgau's piece, and also Zoilus). Take that, naysayers.

What's interesting to note is that,
apart from their ill concieved idea of calling their music Upper West Side Soweto, both those positive and negative to VW's schtick seem to have blown the Afro-bits of their music out of proportion. In reality, only a few songs have a clear Afro-tinged sound, and as has been noted by others that sound is more like some of the Afro-influenced American pop/rock music of the 80s than that of their fellow African musicians. They are interpretations of those sounds rather than copies. Plus, it sounds pretty clear to me that VW use the Afro-interpretations as deliberate tools, as in the trying-to-pick-up-a-freshman-girl "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", where they state "This feels so unatural / Peter Gabriel too", which pretty much says that they're very much aware of the fact that they may not get afropop right themselves (much less getting nookie) as well as an awareness of the issues that trying to play it at all may raise. If there is a solid afro-influence to VW's music, it's more to do with what SFJ claimed was lacking in current indie rock/pop; you know space, bass and all that (their geekie Ivy-league influences notwithstanding).

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