For a band so poppy and seemingly eager to please, Vampire Weekend has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. First, there was the group’s temerity in introducing a preppy, collegiate, yacht club style to the still largely scruffy, charity shop world of indie rock. Their pastel shirts and chinos were an affront to the very notion of indie, whose 80s roots lay in a reaction to that world. Then there was the incorporation of Afropop influences into their sound, leading some to question how appropriate it was for a group of white middle class Americans to separate that music from its original political and social context (much the same way that Paul Simon faced questions over Graceland two decades earlier). By the time of their 2009 sophomore album, Contra, things had turned litigious. Ann Kirsten Kennis – the woman whose 80s-era photograph the band had used on the album’s cover – brought a lawsuit for inappropriate use of her image. Now, in the strangest case yet of the band’s unique ability to rile up the populace, they are facing the wrath of Saab fans after burning two 900-series cars in the video for latest single Diane Young. Just imagine the damage they could do if they actually set out to provoke.
By Chris Ward
• Modern Vampires of the City is released 6 May