Relax people, there is plenty of hope here for the Vaccines.
Being the band responsible for one of my favorite albums of last year, with What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?, I was set to be disappointed upon the bands’ sophomore release.
A lot of my fears were alleviated pretty early though. When “No Hope” dropped a couple of months ago, we heard Justin Young stop hiding behind all of the world’s reverb and instead got a truthful, post-punk track which clocked in unusually lengthily for the Vaccines, at just over 4 minutes. The blessings only continued when a few weeks ago we were given indie-gem “Teenage Icon”. The track wrestles with the idea that the band aren’t going to be the one that all of the teenyboppers get around, and they don’t really mind either. There is some signature work from lead guitarist Freddie Cowan here who creates guitar lines reminiscent of tracks like “Blow it Up” and “If You Wanna” from their debut.
It’s pretty clear that the band have entered their “hair” phase as all members bar Cowan are sporting either luscious locks or bombastic beards. It’s with some irony then, that the album cover sports four female doppelgangers of the band. The other thing that you notice pretty early on looking at the album, is that it clocks in a bit longer than their previous effort, with with all songs breaking the 2 minute mark, and most breaking 3.
“No Hope” opens the album with the grungey-glassy amalgamation of a guitar tone that is at the forefront of lead single. The reverb we know and love the Vaccines for comes back in the opening gallop of “I Always Knew”. The beachy tones of the track sound somewhat influenced by popular surf rock bands like Wavves and Best Coast. Cowen makes use of shameless amounts of vibrato as the record heads into more familiar territory in the form of sing-a-long “Teenage Icon”.
Lamenting ballad “All in Vein” puts the 60s influence that holds so much power over the band’s writing, at the forefront. This non-confrontational pop song is another to feature extensive lead guitar work. This trend of layering guitar lines was missing from the first release, with many of the tracks being single guitar numbers, it’s certainly a welcome change. The ominous guitar line of “Ghost Town” is a flash back to the work of bands like the Fratellis with their track “Creepin’ up the Backstairs”. Young’s whispering bursts into a juxtaposed crescendo of vocals and guitars in the chorus which slowly builds into a gargantuan wall of sound. The track sounds like it should be in an episode of Scooby-Doo, and I mean that in the best way possible.
“Aftershave Ocean” is a non-confrontational pop song tinged with some of that trademark frantic Vaccines nature. The track segues seamlessly into “Weirdo” which is another unusually slow track for the band. This is what’s great about this record, even though it is so very different to their previous work, with more and more genres being incorporated into the album, you can still tell that this is a Vaccines record through its instrumental tonality and the croon of Justin Young.
In a return to the faster paced moments of their first release, “Bad Mood” and “Change of Heart Pt.2” are tracks that don’t give you a pause for breath as you dance your way through their combined five minutes.
As the album reaches its end we receive the track which I imagine gives the album its cover. “I Wish I Was A Girl” is the bridge between the erratic Vaccines that was on display and the slow rocking, Arctic Monkeys-esque closing track “Lonely World” which does the job of “Family Friend” from the first album. This five minute track slowly winds the album down to its finish.
The Vaccines Come of Age isn’t going to change the world, granted. But this is a bloody strong album that lives up to the hype which their first created.