Review Summary: A promising debut album from a band that is surprisingly fresh but lacking a bit of maturity at the moment.
There’s something strangely fresh about The Vaccines. Strange because their sound owes so much to post punk, Madchester and Britpop that their debut album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ would seem equally suited to being released in any of the previous 3 decades. Yet this is a guitar-laden album with a confidence and honesty that is pleasing amid recent years where guitar bands have gone a bit stale. The 3rd placed contestants in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 have a sound more reflective of 1991, but it is this that is so refreshing amid an age of synths and sub woofers.
Their confidence can be seen with the first two tracks – ‘Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ a sardonic reference to their reputation as being a bit posh, and ‘If You Wanna’, an exceptionally catchy love song with lyrics which espouse an innocent honesty – ‘That’s what all the friends I don’t like as much as you, say’. Both songs have an energy that is reminiscent of their Ramones influence. The other main hit from the album is ‘Post Break-Up Sex’, a song that reveals both the strengths and weaknesses of the band. It is a catchy song that evokes memories of Madchester bands like Stone Roses while also emulating the feel good nature that has earned them comparisons with The Strokes. The title of the song also reveals the nature of plenty of their lyrics. Their lyrics are often slightly shallow and limited to teenage sex and relationships. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing but at times they are a bit cliché and a little bit unpleasant – Norgaard, a song about a 17 year old not being ready yet seems a little bit uncouth.
What the lyrics do reveal is that this is a band that is prepared to exploit the realities of youth culture in their work. While the songs can be seen as being immature and sordid, they are also filled with an honest representation of the world as they see it. This is surely what any rock band is trying to do anyway – there’s no point in avoiding these realities. It is perhaps for this reason that the album is named as it is – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? I certainly was not expecting an album that evoked so many memories of great bands like The Stone Roses and The Ramones and I was not expecting an album as sincere as this. I was also not expecting lead singer Justin Young (also known as indie-folk singer Jay Jay Pistolet) to be part of such a robust project. Thus the band has surpassed its expectations and the very title highlights this.
After so many years of arrogance in indie rock it is most pleasing to see that The Vaccines’ confidence is also laced with a healthy dollop of angst and insecurity. The guitarist, Freddie Cowan, is supposedly from an illustriously wealthy family which for some reason makes him the object for some scorn in the music media. There is certainly an insecurity about the bands roots as is most clearly seen in the concluding song ‘Somebody Else’s Child’ which has the lyrics “I'm alright/ Why'd you ask?/ I'm uptight I guess/ Let it pass/ I've never had much in common with you.” Even in the first song ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ the ‘(Ra Ra Ra)’ can be seen as a direct confrontation with this insecurity. This does indeed raise the question, why is there such an inverted snobbery towards the success of privately educated bands in modern rock music?
The Vaccines’ debut album is an enjoyable listen primarily due to the catchiness of many of the songs. The wonderfully catchy ‘If You Wanna’ and the Stone Roses-esque ‘All In White’ are highlights though each of the songs carries with it the enthusiasm that fuels the album. There is polishing to be done, but The Vaccines can truly grow to emulate the successes of so many of the bands whose memory is evoked by them.