The Vaccines – Come of Age

Albums / Words

27 Oct 12

It’s quite hard to define just what The Vaccines are getting at with the title of their second full length release, which seems as littered with youthful, hormonal woes as their first.

The record is powered by classic but thoughtful riffy lead guitar and simple melodic structures, which don’t help in providing much of a musical response to previous work, What did you expect from The Vaccines? but nevertheless this is a foolhardy, bold and purposeful release which, if nothing else,
proves the band’s worth for the meanwhile.

There are some standout tracks which test the formula: ‘Weirdo’ and outro ‘Lonely World’ introduce deeper lyrical considerations, which offset well with a bigger sound comprised of loftier beats and epic lead guitar, sensationalising whilst scratching below the surface. These moments unearth some of the grown up sentiment suggested in the records’ title.

This is unlikely to convert any stragglers, but the record has a certain timelessness which will translate well to fans and a wider congregation of young romantic rock ‘n’ roll types, who will find this straight-up and honest record refreshing.

If I had attempted to answer the question posed by The Vaccines in 2011 with their debut album – What did you expect from the Vaccines? – I would have said that, after a few singles, their popularity would have faded once the hype machine started churning out someone else’s name. The purposefully dubbed second album seems to refute this – but do they deliver the much toiled over tracks and artistic growth that a title like Come of Ageseems to suggest?

Just as they have abandoned the aesthetic accoutrements of an Indie “It band”, donning the double denim and shaggy hair of a stereotypical (and, as we are so obviously meant to believe, serious) rock band, they are also trying on a different sound for size, filling out the simple, indie-pop of the previous album. But far from being the long awaited re-birth of the guitar band, as the town-criers of the British music press would have us believe, this album seems to be more of a churning out of long-tired formulas – a paint by numbers in riffs. In the second single, ‘Teenage Icon’, lead vocalist Justin Young croons, “I’m suburban and typical” and his description seems to me unfortunately fitting for the album as whole.

That said, many of these tracks are simply enjoyable to listen to. “Ghost Town” is a short, punchy tune built around an infectious riff, telling a familiar tale of small-town ennui, and the neat, jangly riff of the slightly morose ‘Weirdo’ makes it my standout track.

This is a perfectly adequate second album, but the coming of age of a “great rock band”, as the Vaccines have recently dubbed themselves? I think not.

The Vaccines Come Of Age is a bold title and a telling statement for the second collection of songs from the four piece from London. The first album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines created enough ripples in the musical pool for this album to become ‘anticipated’. It tells of an album that is always trying too hard. The lyrics sometimes feel forced and awkward, the music sometimes too rushed and formulaic. However The Vaccines are good at taking old melodies and making them feel fresh and more interesting.

The 50’s inspired ‘I Always Knew’ is a prime example of this, skipping along with rolling guitars and a hypnotic melody sung gently by lead vocalist Justin Young. Young is both the best and worst aspect of The Vaccines. His plodding vocal style has the ability to make or break their songs. At times he can create soulful vocal lines which warm the ears, and at other times he drearily states pop culture references with cringe worthy bawdiness.

The Vaccines do however have that rare ability to create instantly catchy chorus sing-alongs as audible on ‘Teenage Icons’ where you can almost hear the sweaty crowds crying out the words in unison. ‘Weirdo’ also is a stand out track, with its walking bass and plunky guitar line, helped along by Young’s dulcet vocal tones, which create a track which you can lose yourself in for those few brief minutes.

The Vaccines are a band in the spotlight. With headlines constantly stating fears about the disappearance of guitar based bands like they are a pack of dying dodos, The Vaccines have been made the new age poster boys. This is far too much pressure to put on a band clearly trying to find themselves and it shows on the album. What also can be seen however is that they clearly can write hit tracks which go down well with the new generation of music fans who flock to see them.

The hype machine is always spinning. The Arctic Monkeys survived the churn. Can The Vaccines? They should have their sick bags at the ready just in case.