Review: The Vaccines – Come of Age
Published on September 5th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Having spent 2011 being incessantly compared to The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Ramones, The Vaccines make a play for the more Cure-ish aspects of the ’80s on their second album and end up with a record that sounds like a great lost record from the ’90s.
Opener “No Hope” shelves the previous fuzzy blasts, veering more towards the jangly end of the spectrum with a mix that – courtesy presumably of Ethan Johns’s production – feels more ‘open’, as if you could reach inside and yank isolated elements out by hand. Justin Young’s lyrics remain anchored in adolescent self-doubt (“I wish I was comfortable in my own skin / But the whole thing feels like an exercise in / Trying to be someone I would rather not be / I tried to second-guess if you would be approving”), belying what is an assured and consummately sequenced selection of guitar-pop delights.
“I Always Knew” is an elegent trot which breaks into a chorus that can’t disguise its ’60s-ness no matter how many “woah-oh woah-oh oh”s it heaps on top, coming across like “If You Wanna” as re-imagined by one of the decade’s girl groups, with extra added wibbly lead guitar lightheartedness. As with the album as a whole it’s enjoyable enough not to suffer for its myriad derivations, a charming and effective form of simplicity that takes in various styles along the way, supplemented by that chameleonic lead guitar (which incidentally evokes early Stone Roses on following track “Teenage Icon”…lovely, cascading melody that one boasts on its pre-chorus, too).
There are some splendid songwriting touches on “All in Vain”, the strongest and jangliest track so far with its “I Am the Resurrection”/”Rocks” drum beat and early Beatles-y middle-eight. “I’m never going to waste my time with you” sings Young, not that The Vaccines could ever be accused of wasting time, and sure enough they proceed to reel off the mean ‘n’ moody stomper “Ghost Town”, the playfully twisted “Aftershave Ocean” (which, in the best possible way, could have been a Blur B-side) and the really bloody tremendous “Weirdo”.
Rather than being a Charlatans cover – just as “Ghost Town” is not a Specials cover – “Weirdo” wields a guitar lick that sounds like Graham Coxon was in The Shadows, going on to sound a bit like Radiohead’s “Creep” by way of Pulp in gently breezy mode. Árni Hjörvar’s monotone Kim Deal bass line propels the sparse verses into a climactic dynamic that confirms this as the canniest song The Vaccines have come out with so far. It may be too smart to be a single, but that’s all the more reason to treasure it.
“Bad Mood” rides on suitably thrashy power chords and a low, moody vocal delivery, “Change of Heart Pt. 2” is joyfully unpretentious/unpretentiously joyful ’80s guitar pop, paving the way for “I Wish I Was a Girl” to bring the house down with such Samantha Brick-flouting lines as “Life is easy when you’re easy on the eye” and “You’re so chic” (no mention of how sheer she is, though – teenage icon of the week, anyone?), although that guitar solo does feel eerily like “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & the Papas.
We then have back-to-back songs which betray their downcast lyrical content with relatively upbeat-sounding pop music: “Woe is me” cries Young on “Lonely World”, while “Runaway” takes in such feel-good lines as “I’m gonna wake up lonely some day / And I’m gonna wake up old” and “We’re all gonna die some day”, but they don’t feel like as much of a bummer as those words do in isolation.
“Possessive” uses loopy lead guitar to conjure a jittery, nervous energy akin to solo Coxon, leaving “Misbehaviour” to bring the curtain down on a chugging, good-time romp of a note, the obligatory disaffected lyrics once again denied from dictated the mood of its accompanying soundtrack. It’s good to hear The Vaccines indulging their playfulness without spilling over into nauseating frivolity, and in terms of this week’s mainstream ‘indie’ releases Come of Age is streets ahead of Two Door Cinema Club’s new album.
They may position themselves defiantly in opposition to maximalist approaches to music-making, but the obvious step up in songwriting evident here makes Rocksucker wonder what The Vaccines could achieve with less of a whirlwind schedule to contend with.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Come of Age is out now on Columbia. For more information please visit www.thevaccines.co.uk