Vampire Weekend vs. Bloc Party

This blog was originally posted on Nerd Lives

Dance rock can be a wonderful thing, but it has a dark side. Just because rock and/or roll is produced in an upbeat, danceable fashion doesn’t make it worthwhile or new. A few years back, starting with Franz Ferdinand, dance rock became a dominant force on the airwaves. Its power has ebbed and flowed, but I implore you to see that the evil force of painfully repetitive power pop turned dance music is back… and with a new, yet not so new, face.

Since the dawn of time (or at least Y2K), dance rock bands have seemingly come out of thin air and been thrust into the spotlight. Alternative radio stations, satellite radio, and hipsters throughout the nation have, unfortunately, embraced many of these bands as “the next big thing in music.” The more mainstream versions of these acts are often more talented, but cannot be heralded as “cool” because they aren’t exclusive enough. For example, the better dance rock acts of the past few years often get little respect from the underground, yet solid airplay from the mainstream pop and rock stations. Satellite radio’s alternative stations will often throw these bands in for good measure, but save their praise and adoration for the lesser known (and often crappier) bands in the genre. Many larger acts, such as The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Hives, and to a lesser extent The Bravery, have produced some of the better music in the genre for the past few years, yet are not lauded the way that the “indie darlings” are. Some of the more underground acts, like The Rapture and Peter Bjorn and John, have taken the dance rock formula and tweaked it to become something more special, but they can never be quite “cool” enough to be fully embraced by the hipster nation.

The quintessential “cool” acts in dance rock have been Bloc Party (c. 2005) and Vampire Weekend (c. NOW). I begin with Bloc Party. They were hip and edgy, as they had a black lead singer and spelled “block” as “bloc”, creating a fresh and new aesthetic. ( If you don’t believe that black rockers are automatically cool, how else can you explain people actually liking Lenny Kravtiz?) Bloc Party’s “Banquet” played on every “cool” radio station of the time, especially the decidedly underground stations on XM, Sirius, and the Internet. Outside of these markets, you could neither escape Bloc Party’s uber-repetitive sound at any party thrown by a twenty-something urban bohemian nor go a whole two hours at a trendy rock club’s weekly dance party night without hearing these tunes and/or remixes of said tunes (see Philadelphia’s The Khyber as a prime example). The major problem with Bloc Party was not, simply, the overexposure, but the under-talented nature of the band. Several other acts at the time were, in fact, better at what Bloc Party was doing… but the “cool” factors made Bloc Party the most over-hyped and over-appreciated of the bunch.

At this juncture, Bloc Party seems to be all but gone. In fact, in truly just fashion, they disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared. Suddenly, the hole that had been left in the hipster dance party scene (occasionally filled temporarily by a Diplo remix of a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song) was filled by today’s “it” dance rock band, Vampire Weekend. As with Bloc Party before them, the band showed up on the airwaves seemingly out of nowhere, getting play through the same outlets as the aforementioned Bloc Party. Also like the former dance rockers on the “bloc”, Vampire Weekend have not had to prove themselves as anything worthwhile or new to suddenly become heralded as so. Covers of Spin Magazine and many smaller publications were graced with the band and some combination of the words “hip”, “new”, and “fresh”. Unfortunately, none of the words describe their single nor any other songs on their album. Vampire Weekend is another all-hype, no-bite band… and I can predict that like Bloc Party, Vampire Weekend will likely disappear as quickly as they have arisen to the status a prominent hipster dance party act.

Justice does exist for some, however. That is justice, in such a sense. The previously mentioned dance rock acts like The Killers and The Hives have made up for what they didn’t receive in cool points by producing multiple solid albums and remaining part of the makeup of the popular alternative music scene. Being hip, is not always important, afterall… though my guess is that Brandon Flowers thinks he’s the coolest kid in school (which is okay, because he just may be). If only this brand of justice could cross over into other genres and talentless acts could be expunged from popular opinion. (The gods of arena rock need to ensure that someone supplants Nickelback from their throne before it’s too late.)

In closing, Vampire Weekend is the new Bloc Party. See exhibit A in the form of the picture at the start of this tirade… if you replace the black dude with another white guy, they are the SAME band. Case closed. For my next trick, I will debunk the belief that The Arcade Fire is groundbreaking and inventive.


~ by thepaintedman on May 19, 2008.

One Response to “Vampire Weekend vs. Bloc Party”

  1. […] In other news, Vampire Weekend are the new Strokes. Wait..I mean…new Bloc Party. […]

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