Thursday, February 26, 2009

Extra Golden- "Thank You Very Quickly": You're Goddam Welcome

I have to just put it out there: I'm sorry, Phil. I don't like Vampire Weekend.

I didn't like them when they were the Clash, either. I know you said that since I liked Peter Gabriel, I would like the VW, but I just don't hear it. I hear more of PG in the intro to that "Wannabe" song by the band whose name I won't mention, because they don't deserve a moniker so cool. It isn't just that I'm disappointed by how little I like the band after such a glowing recommendation, but that I began seeing so many trite descriptions of how Vampire Weekend fused indie rock with world music. Like it's never been fucking done before! Come on, people.

And then part of it is mindfulness of my own tendency to Exoticism, which I've discussed before. So, with that in mind, I had a bit of trouble readying myself to listen to Extra Golden's forthcoming album, which promised to be... yes, you guessed it, a fusion of rock and world music.

Only, not. It's the real deal. Now, if you read me enough, you know that I hate redundancy. There's an excellent article on Extra Golden here. The basic bio about them you need to know, though, is that they're not some hipster kid bedroom project concocted after listening to "Security." It's a couple of American musician/ethnologists and a couple of dudes from Kenya. Read the NPR article.

Musically, they rip it up, very elementally. It's not the angular stuff you'd expect from this modern era, either. My first impression was... The Doors, post-Morrison, hooking up with Fela Kuti and being revitalized instead of trailing into slick mediocrity. After a repeated listen, the hyperactive percussion flourishes made me think of The Police at their jammiest. Now, I think these are apt comparisons, but Extra Golden has a highly cohesive group sound, that lacks the musical tension or singular personalities that arose from those groups. They're never going to have a hit single, not in our western world. I think, though, that their musical tension, and artistic success, arises in part from their tenuous existence as an entity.

This is a little bit of why Vampire Weekend doesn't seem so authentic to me. Sure, even people in good situations can fuel their art with internal conflict, but I just don't see it as having the same gravity, as Adorno has suggested. Extra Golden is always wondering when they'll be able to get together again, and if some of their member will have been shot in the head in the meantime. You might think my Doors comparison breaks down there too, but I think it's the same. The sixties were a different time. Manzarek and the boys never really could sleep well wondering when Jim was going to munch down a bag of acid, whip out his wiener, and then everyone gets the nightstick. It's a recipe for urgency, for immediacy, and in the case of Extra Golden, a feeling of musical rejoicing that's immediatly apparent. Put this record on at a party- it's music to share.

"Thank You Very Quickly" is out March 10th.

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