Review Summary: While not nearly as immediate as its predecessor, Come of Age is a great second effort that shows how versatile the Vaccines can really be.
It was only 18 months ago that the Vaccines were asking us what we expected from them. Now they want us to hear them Come of Age.
Come of Age is the sophomore release by British rock band The Vaccines, whose debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, was released after considerable hype from various sources, including the NME, and after coming in third in the BBC Sound of 2011 poll. Their debut, a fast-paced, high energy, joyride of less than 36 minutes, included the quick one and a half minute freakouts “Wreckin' Bar” and “Norgaard,” as well as the successful single “If You Wanna.” The album itself was a huge success in the UK, ultimately peaking at #4, and went on to be the biggest selling debut by a band in their home country of 2011.
Come of Age, unsurprisingly, gives the listener exactly what it promises. The entire album is more subtle in its flow and overall tone; while retaining the hooks that ran throughout their debut, however, this time around, the majority of songs are less immediately enticing, considerably slower, mellower, and more laid back. Where the main focus of the first album was the band playing their instruments as hard as they could with a mild swagger about themselves, the Vaccines take their time on Come of Age, carefully picking and choosing when to let go of everything. Most everything is crisper and clearer on Come of Age; the reverb and speaker blasting, and noise soaked songs of their debut are almost completely absent, with the band choosing instead to vary their tones and sounds, mainly by changing their guitar effects in order to change the mood of the songs.
We see some very interesting changes from the Vaccines on this album. Songs like "I Wish I Was A Girl" and especially, “Ghost Town” are something completely different from what the Vaccines have been known for in the past. "Ghost Town" features a heavy droning bass line, bluesy, quick-punching guitars, and a barrage of echoes to darken the overall atmosphere of the album a bit, while "I Wish I Was A Girl" almost sounds like something that the Black Keys could have written.
However, the band truly finds its stride when the songs are bright and poppy. The jangly “All in Vein,” is one of the strongest and poppiest songs on the entire album. If not for Young's soaring vocals, It could have easily been a standout Oasis single back in their prime, and going back even further into rock history, the beautiful, and melodic guitar solo sounds like it came straight from George Harrison's “My Sweet Lord.” In the same vein as “All in Vein,” highlight “Aftershave Ocean,” is another song that features the notoriously delightful guitar strumming from their debut, and a ridiculously sunny and catchy chorus: “you're coming up for air/happier down there/in your aftershave ocean.”
To say that the Vaccines take influence from the past is an understatement to say the least. Many of the songs on Come of Age take influence from the great British rock groups of the sixties, most obviously bands like Oasis, as well as the blues-rock that the Rolling Stones made famous.
However, this is not all about the story of the Vaccines growing up. “Lonely World” brings back memories of songs from their debut like “Family Friend” or “Wetsuit,” with the song up to its neck in reverb and a slow meticulous beat. On the flip side of things, second single “Teenage Icon” is the song that emulates the tone of their first album the most, with pounding pianos, a sing-along chorus, and the proclamation that “I'm no teenage icon/I'm no Frankie Avalon/I'm nobody's hero” without the least bit of doubt in Young's voice.
Come of Age is, overall, a logical and well crafted follow up to the spectacular energy that the Vaccines brought to the table their first time around. It is an extension of their sound, ultimately for the better, and finds the band diversifying themselves in many different ways. To say that the Vaccines are one of the most hyped about rock bands of the last decade may be an understatement, but one thing is for sure, Come of Age cements themselves as worthy of all that hype.