PREVIEW AFRO-POP VAMPIRE WEEKEND Barrowland, Glasgow, Sat 13 Feb; HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Sun 14 Feb

Upon the release of their eponymous debut album almost exactly two years ago, it seemed possible to bracket Vampire Weekend as a novelty band. They were four preppy middle class New York kids taking the traditional sounds of impoverished African folk music, infusing it with arch, highbrow lyrics (the ‘Oxford Comma’ was one unlikely subject matter for a song) and calling their own genre-of-one ‘Upper West Side Soweto’. It was either a stroke of genius or a somewhat snooty parody, not helped by the fact that their most obvious predecessor was Paul Simon’s Graceland album. Two years and half a million US sales of the debut album later however, and any

question that the quartet (pictured L–R, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio, Chris Tomson, and Ezra Koenig) are anything but supremely talented has been put to bed. They’re not a parody, of course, just a group who are adventurous enough to explore sounds from a setting that’s about as far from their own collective background as possible. The recently-released second album Contra, its title at once a tribute and response

to Joe Strummer’s Sandanista, hasn’t upset the style they’ve already established, mixing shades of reggae, Bollywood and Teutonic electronica into their already dense world music palette. It’s a step on for the band both artistically and commercially, selling 124,000 copies in its first week on sale in America, and reaching the top of the Billboard 200 album chart. Far from deserving any aspersions which might once have been cast upon their relatively privileged upbringing, it seems Vampire Weekend Batmanglij and Koenig being the children of Iranian and Jewish immigrants, respectively have expertly fused the sounds of multicultural America in a manner all can relate to. (David Pollock)


When skateboarder turned TV man named Earl, Jason Lee heard Midlake, it was love at first album. After hearing their 2004 debut, Bamnan and Slivercork, Lee got onboard with both feet, and bells on. In the past, Lee has promoted the lo-fi Texan rockers, invited them to perform at skateboarding events he’s hosted, and directed a music video for them. Now they’ve brought out a third album, The Courage of Others (released this fortnight), their number one fan has also directed a short documentary about them, which they’re putting out as a deluxe DVD- vinyl combo for fans of their soft folk- rock. Although Midlake’s heart belongs in

their beloved Denton, Texas (where Lee filmed that early video for ‘Balloon Maker’), their minds tend to wander elsewhere on their albums. The sounds of Laurel Canyon could be heard in the hippie haze of flutes and carefully-strummed guitars of their last album, The Trials of Van Occupanther, and that same American West Coast flavour seeps through on The Courage of Others. But 70s Britain seems the biggest inspiration this time around, with Nick Drake’s melancholy and Fairport Convention’s lilting melodies echoing throughout. Alt-country moments and big, hooky-as-hell choruses remind us that this is indeed music from cowboy country, even if it does sound like a druid or a forest sprite may skip past at any moment. A peaceful, wistful, moss-covered take on folk-rock. (Claire Sawers)

62 THE LIST 4–18 Feb 2010


The latest NME tour brings another collection of bands Bombay Bicycle Club, The Maccabees (pictured, above), The Big Pink and The Drums looking to put a modern twist on familiar sounds. With sharp, noisy guitars and quivering vocals all round, the tour harks back to an era when difficult, angular indie music was the preserve of people who would rightly shudder to see their punk, post-punk and new wave idols sharing poster space with hair product advertising. Things change however, and the Shockwaves NME

Awards Tour is still to be celebrated, as it allies a group of hard-working, credible live acts in an appealing bill. Leading the pack are London’s Bombay Bicycle Club, a group that NME have been touting since the band’s GCSE year. 2009’s album, I Had The Blues But I Shook

Them Loose has booked them a place on the tour, and bass and keyboard player Ed Rush is excited. ‘We’ve met The Maccabees a few times. They’re

lovely guys and we like their music a lot.’ He admits to not having heard that much of The Drums, but is ‘excited about getting to know them’. The Brooklyners’ marriage of surf-influenced guitar pop and straightforward Cure rip off is a nice counterpoint to BBC’s sound.

For Rush, it’s also ‘older indie music, like Television, and early 90s stuff like Pavement,’ that has informed the band’s tight, simple but deceptively rich sound; influences shared by Brighton’s The Maccabees no doubt. The Big Pink are the breakthrough indie-fuzz poster boys who complete the line-up, making, overall, a bill that encompasses a little bit of everything alt. Derivative, maybe, but always good value and good fun. (Jonny Ensall)