From hype band to backlash, supporting the Arctic Monkeys at the O2 to lead-man Justin Young being warned he could never sing again after a slew of operations to save his haemorrhaging vocal cords, the past twelve months have not been dull for The Vaccines.
Ambiguous of accent despite (or because of) his west London upbringing, Young's vocal chords remain intact for the follow up to the massive What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? A self-fulfilling prophecy of an album, their debut hit all the notes we'd come to expect from messrs Young, Hjorvar, Cowan and Robertson after their storming, Zane Lowe-championed "If You Wanna" demo. A debut of "exactly what you expect" is one thing, but a sophomore album of the same would be quite another.
Enter The Vaccines' Come of Age...
Album opener (and lead single) “No Hope” segues from an excitingly punk intro into the familiar twang of a Libertines-style ode to being twenty four and young and bored and [not knowing who] you are no more. A phase he'll "outgrow", he hopes. Don't we all? They're still very much the same band who attracted rugby boors and the hipster girls alike, but now their seems to be more of an edge. Even off-stage, Young seems more comfortable in his skin (not actually boring interviewers into somnolence is a start), talking excitedly of The Ramones and the New York underground scene they inhabited. Other influences can be heard elsewhere, as they bait the boor-fanbase with a more retro-sound. The Spaghetti Western rock of “I Always Knew” is a refreshing blast; galloping snares, Ennio Morricone guitar; a song for long-gestating love with just the right amount of, the now prerequisite, nonchalance (let's go to bed, before you say something real). Hardly a pint will be thrown during it's three-and-a-half-minute runtime but that merely enhances the record; this definitely is a band who have grown.
Midway point “Aftershave Ocean” sounds unlike anything else they've done. A perplexingly pitched vocal sees it lie somewhere between The Strokes and Paul McCartney, until Young melodramatically vamps, sub-low, for a line or two. It's all very good, honestly; featuring both one of the best choruses on the entire album and a kick-arse guitar solo. Almost a direct thumb in the eye to critics who denounced them as one-note, the song bounces around like a kiddie off his Ritalin in a song which is just a smidgen too all-over-the-place to be truly great. Second single “Teenage Icon” is probably one of the weaker efforts on the album, sounding like an off-cut from their lean debut; predictable, catchy; it takes the Vaccines' MO and goes nowhere with it, churning out a likable if ultimately empty track which would have been fine as an album cut but is just a little too plain to be a great single. “Weirdo” appears to be a song in the mould of a Smiths slowie, but even Marr would have balked at the over-twang of the lead “melody” on a track so moribund that I've already ear-marked it for my next break-up mixtape. Again, out of their wheelhouse, Vaccines struggle slightly with a gallantly underplayed track that'll certainly sort the wheat from the Chavs amongst their fans, morphing the band, as it does, into a drunken REM; a turn-of-foot I am more than happy to welcome.
Described as the British equivalent to The Strokes' seminal Is This It, the Vaccines' debut album lacked the originality to be justifably compared to the New York bands era-defining record, despite it's abundance of singalong choruses and crowd-pleasing riffs. On their second LP, the Vaccines record with verve, with a prowess for diversity shown throughout, with the rewards cumulatively meeting the risks taken. On Come of Age, they appear to do just that.
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