By Joel Hess
I run through favorite bands like I empty bottles of Rye, but currently one of my favorite bands is Vampire Weekend. Oh, I know, they aren’t Christian. Their recent album even has a track called, ‘unbelievers.’ They seem to be agnostic Jews at best. So may I benefit from unholy sounds in my holy ear? Does it matter?
And while I certainly pray that the young afrophiles may know the peace and hope of Jesus Christ, I am still moved by their lyrics. No they don’t have the right answers, but they do have the right complaints, questions, observations from the perspective of living under the sun and not on top of it if I may reference the preacher in Ecclesiastes.
On their track ‘unbelievers’, Ezra Koenig desires grace, maybe half sarcastically, but not enough sarcasm to destroy its sincerity:
“Got a little soul
The world is a cold, cold place to be
Want a little warmth
But whos going to save a little warmth for me”
“We know the fire awaits unbelievers
All of the sinners the same
Girl you and I will die unbelievers bound to the tracks of the train”
Using our senses without the gift of revelation is it possible to acknowledge there is something wrong with the world, wrong with humanity and that some sort of impending doom lies ahead? (Rhetorical question). We are left to our own devices ultimately tragic figures in this regard; hoping things will get better yet something ticks inside of us that destines us to destruction. Just like the reader of Hemingway or Sophocles we, squirming in our arm chair, know how it’s going to end. Save for Jesus Christ.
With that there is an artistic value to the song that does not require me to agree with all of Koenig’s worldview. And certainly it proves to me that there are thirsty people out there, even if it is no more deep than Cosmo Kramer’s ‘yearning.’
Another fascinating song is ‘Ya Hey’. It is a play on God’s name YHWH (or maybe it’s a play on Outkast’s song ‘hey ya’) hmmm. Perhaps as a Jew he was taught not to use God’s name thus the play on words, I don’t know.
“Oh, sweet thing
Zion doesn’t love you
And Babylon don’t love you
But you love everything
Oh, you saint
America don’t love you
So I could never love you
In spite of everything”
and then the chorus:
“Through the fire and through the flames
You won’t even say your name
Only “I am that I am”
But who could ever live that way?
(Ya Hey [x2])
Ut Deo, Ya Hey
Ut Deo, Deo”
Now I really hate deciphering pop music lyrics like its TS Eliot – just ‘let it be’ I say. However, I am intrigued by this ‘Israelite’s’ crisis of faith. The song seems to lament a relationship that is broke on both sides of the covenant – Ya Hey’s and humanity. He gives no answers. Again, it is just an honest expression from someone who has either never heard the voice from heaven or does not believe it. Yet again, while it partly mocks, it partly takes serious the existence of God and the history of YHWH and His people. Most amazingly Ezra threads the thin line between sounding like a preachy Christian rock band or a pompous antagonist of the Faith. It’s authentic, folks!
I am not trying to persuade you to dig Vampire Weekend, nor to buy their records so you can get to know their audience and evangelize them, but to encourage you appreciate the voices of the lost and the artistic value of the darkness in which they live. Ok, and then go give ‘em Jesus.