This week, everyone's favorite Columbia-educated, sweater vest-wearing musicians Vampire Weekend got into hot water with car enthusiasts the world over thanks to their music video for new single "Diane Young," in which two 900-series Saab cars are torched. Because only Vampire Weekend or Kanye West could possibly find themselves wrapped up in a controversy with people who fetishize cars.
The "Diane Young" video, which you can see above, was seemingly inspired by the first line of the song, "“You torched a Saab like a pile of leaves. I’d gone to find some better wheels.” Jalopnik wrote a post subtly titled, "Vampire Weekend Are A Bunch Of Dicks," while others anthropomorphized the cars in the video's YouTube comments. Now, the NY Post points out that the band may have actually broken some laws in pursuit of their car-killing art: they may have violated New York’s Clean Air Act, because burning paint and metal is an environmental hazard.
The band have been quite sensitive about the controversy, taking the criticisms to heart, as Pitchfork put it, "the way some might after being accused of animal cruelty." Lead singer Ezra Koenig told Spinner, "I want people to understand that we do respect cars and the last thing we want to do is to fuck up a collector's item or something like that." He added that their label had sought to purchase the cheapest, oldest cars possible (the Saabs used were valued at $3,000 each).
Anyway, at the end of the day, the only question is whether the band broke any clean air rules around burning the cars. There's no debate that the band's label bought the used cars legally (Koenig noted, "From what I understand those old ones actually had a lot of electrical problems"), so they had the right to do whatever they wanted with the "junkers"—maybe the owners of those cars had emotional ties to them, but they're cars. They almost certainly weren't going to get anything resembling a respectful burial.
Our bigger takeaways: how come Vampire Weekend keep getting into these odd controversies right before their new albums drop? If you recall, the band was sued by model Ann Kirsten Kennis, who claimed the band didn't have the right to use a photo of her as the cover of their sophomore album, Contra. And while we're not offended by the car burning, we're disappointed in the lazy video: the band came up with some fantastic music videos for the singles from Contra, including "Cousins", and the very self-aware "Giving Up The Gun." Did they just not have any better ideas for the Springsteen-influenced "Diane Young"?