With the debut album so influenced by West African influences and Contra throwing in equal bits Auto-tune and tribal ululations, can you imagine if Vampire Weekend incorporated the musical stylings of the Lollipop Guild in their junior release? Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s anti-grammarian stance on “Oxford Comma” places him squarely in the anti-intellectual realm of the Scarecrow. Rostam Batmanglij is really the Lion, judging by his dreamy, tame roars of “hey” on “White Sky.” Bassist Chris Baio, prone to tweeting details of home life and compliments from his mom, would be Dorothy, on tour but never too far from home. Drummer Chris Tomson could function well as Toto, clomping happily with the rest of the gang. On second thought, he’s actually the Tin Man, the thumping heart and backbone for the rest of the group’s skittering and skipping along.
The A-Team have been pop-culture standbys for twenty-plus years; Vampire Weekend should strive for such longevity, though their style is much less visually intriguing than a shirtless, gold-chained B.A Baracus or a cigar chomping, gun-toting Hannibal Smith. Koenig would be nattily attired conman Faceman Peck, stylish in his terrier sweaters and name-dropping of Louis Vuitton. The “mentally unstable” H.M Murdock is Baio, supplying sturdy bass lines but often veering into off-kilter moments of unpredictability. Batmanglij is clearly Hannibal Smith, the A-Team leader and strategist, just as Rostam functions as the group’s producer and engineer. Chris Tomson doesn’t have the mohawk of B.A Baracus, and probably doesn’t address friends as “you crazy fool,” but after surviving a hit-and-run with just some bangs and bruises, his tough attitude rivals that of B.A’s.
It’s always sunny in the Tubbytronic Superdome, and Vampire Weekend inhabits that same calm atmosphere. Like Tinky-Winky, Batmanglij seems to carry around a magic bag full of unexpected flourishes: that fuzzy-warm keyboard in “Oxford Comma,” the tinkling strings of “I Think Ur a Contra.” The scooter-loving Po is Baio, chugging along for the ride and occasionally shining through, like the rumbling bass on “Cousins.” Tomson is Dipsy, the stubborn Teletubby, insistently keeping grooves that start out so simply but eventually earworm into your head. And of course, Koenig is Laa-Laa, the one who frequently sings and pronounces “Bibberly cheese” anytime he gets frustrated. Amidst the Philly cheese steaks and carob rice cakes and Lil’ Jon references in VW’s msic, “Bibberly cheese” isn’t as out of place as you think.
The members of KISS have theatrical monikers like the Starchild, the Demon, the Catman, and the Spaceman. Even though they look like an entity even further removed from VW’s existence than a bruiser hockey squad, the connections are there. Gene Simmons, born Chaim Witz in the confines of Haifa, Israel, went on to compose and strut through the scuzziest, snarling, smoking embodiment of a rock n’roll lifestyle. Koenig might have been born on the posh Upper West Side, but he ended up shoving African polyrhythms and Congolese influences into the “Upper West Side Soweto” of Vampire Weekend. The other band members fit squarely with their instrumental counterparts in KISS, though Thomson doesn’t have pyro in his drum kit, Baio doesn’t incessantly loll his tongue at the audience, and Batmanglij will never have the slimy stage banter of Paul Stanley.