When The Vaccines released their debut album, What Do You Expect From The Vaccines?, they got the attention of music fans and critics who are on the lookout for the next big guitar-based rock band. The London quartet seemed to fill the bill thanks to their cool attitude, loaded with irony, and comparisons to The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines. Now, 18 months later, they are back with their second effort.
The Vaccines are led by singer/guitarist Justin Young, who previously recorded under the name Jay Jay Pistolet as a solo act. Young formed the band a couple of years ago with guitarist Freddie Cowan, whose big brother is Tom Cowan of The Horrors. The group is fleshed out by bassist Arni Hjorvar and drummer Pete Robertson. The new album, Come Of Age was produced by Ethan Johns who generally works with folk/roots artists like Ryan Adams, Laura Marling and Ray LaMontagne (although he has also produced Kaiser Chiefs).
The Vaccines come out swinging with No Hope. The track begins with a blast of noisy guitar before settling down to allow Young to deliver his lyrics, which could be looked at as a sort of updated My Generation. With a Dylan-esque sneer he sings:
And I could make an observation
If you are the voice of a generation
But I’m too self absorbed to give it clout
And I, I don’t really care about
Anybody else when I haven’t got my whole life figured out
Cause when you’re young and bored and 24
And you don’t know who you are
Musically, The Strokes comparisons are certainly relevant, along with, I think, a certain 1960s pop aesthetic that reminds me of early-period Kinks.
The “young, loud & snotty” attitude continues on I Always Knew, where a twangy, jangly guitar and a big, galloping drum beat provides the musical meat to Young’s vocal: Let’s go to bed before you say something real, let’s go to bed before you say how you feel.
On Teenage Icon Young once again reveals his retro leanings, claiming, “I’m not Frankie Avalon”, rather than, say, Justin Bieber.
The album’s first half is loaded with cool tunes, but then the thrill seems to dissipate as the tracks roll by, although I Wish I Was A Girl, does liven things up near the end with its slinky vibe and stabbing guitar attacks. “Life is easy when you’re easy on the eye”…indeed.
In addition to the album’s 11 tracks, there are three bonus tracks which hold up OK and an additional disc with an hour-long live set recorded in Brighton.
The Vaccines sound like they are working their way to becoming a consistently entertaining band with a flair for modernized retro songs. An interesting, if not completely original combination, that will have me looking forward to their next offering.
Click here to listen to I Wish I Was A Girl from Come Of Age: