Real College v. Vampire Weekend Lyrics
Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2016 by Austin Gerth
This afternoon I did some homework, which is troublingly unusual for me on a Saturday. I read through the introductory comments and first section of Descartes’ Meditations, which is my assignment for Modern Philosophy on Monday. I will have to read the whole section again before class in order to really get a secure understanding of it, though. That’s my strategy for the class so far. And I did something else, too: I followed Ezra Koenig on Twitter. Re-followed, actually — although I don’t remember why I stopped.
Ezra Koenig is the lead singer of the band Vampire Weekend, who are a favorite of mine. The band formed around 2006 while all four of its members were still students at Columbia University, an Ivy League school. Their self-titled first album came out in 2008, and the songs’ lyrics, written by Koenig (an English Literature major), often depicted his college experience. One song, “Campus,” sets the story of an unrequited crush on a “cruel professor” against a loping, metronomic bassline. Another song, “Oxford Comma,” was inspired by student protests over the removal of the titular divisive punctuation mark from collegiate style guides.
When I was in high school, Vampire Weekend’s first album did as much (or more) to get me excited about going to college as any admissions rep or any glossy informational brochure. But what’s funny about those songs is that they seem way less realistic once you’re actually in college. The scenario in “Campus” seems mostly incomprehensible to me (and the line about the song’s subject having “spilled Kefir on [her] keffiyeh,” suggests a totally different language of cultural symbolism to the kind one sees at a Midwestern school like Concordia). The idea of protests over Oxford commas, too, is a little extreme. At best, these tracks nail a sort of collegiate hyperreality — recognizable things taken to fantastical extremes, and that’s probably why they resonated for me in high school — that’s what I was looking for. The truest song is the second to last one, “Walcott,” not for its lyrics (which have to do with a Vampire-themed student film Koenig made, from which the band took its name), but simply for its surging, innocent momentum, which struck me in high school, and still strikes me now, as being the melodic equivalent of some rushing, unencumbered, flying-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants feeling, a feeling which accompanies college life in its very best moments (though hopefully it can be made to appear afterward too).