Album: The Vaccines, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? (Columbia)
Friday 11 March 2011
The Vaccines are effectively this season's Arctic Monkeys, the latest fast-rising inheritors of a brash post-punk guitar pop tradition that stretches back ultimately to The Undertones.
Except that, unlike either the Monkeys or Undertones, there didn't actually appear to be that much of a groundswell of grass-roots support for them, until they received the industry benediction of placing third in the BBC's Sound of 2011 poll. Their early singles, included here, reached only 157 and 32 – the latter even after their poll success – which doesn't suggest the kids were exactly hammering on Sony's doors demanding the release of this debut album. But here it is, and here they are, putative saviours of a flagging indie sector, except that nobody thought to ask the punters.
Until recently, Vaccines frontman and songwriter Justin Hayward-Young used to perform as nu-folk singer Jay Jay Pistolet, and while I'm not one to hold someone's past against them, there does seem something slightly bogus (not to mention ill-timed) about such a sudden and drastic change of direction. The band have been compared to The Jesus and Mary Chain, but it's a purely superficial resemblance, from similarities in vibrato guitar tone, thudding tom-toms and vocal reverb on tracks like new single "If You Wanna"; there's none of the Mary Chain's edge of danger, that hint of impending chaos that gave their music its bite.
Here, any trace of feedback or distortion has been eradicated to leave just a Fratelli-esque singalong punk-pop sheen to songs such as "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" and "Norgaard", their tribute to a svelte catwalk model whose "mind's made up, she don't wanna go steady, she's only 17 so she's probably not ready". The closest the band comes to disturbance is the discordant clangour that heralds "Blow It Up"; elsewhere, Young's inflection on the intro to "Wetsuit", effectively a cappella over an organ drone, betrays his folk roots, while the adaptation of Joy Division's "Transmission" bassline for "All in White" doesn't lead anywhere quite as thrilling as the original.
Lyrically, Young focuses on the uncertainties and cross-purposes of romantic attraction, teen exultations and frustrations, and misgivings about inevitably growing old. For some reason, age is a constant source of anxiety here, from the realisation in "Wetsuit" that "we all got old at breakneck speed" to the paradoxical claim in "Family Friend" that "you wanna get young, but you're just getting older". But what's the problem? Time passes, and no blame attaches. Far more satisfying are "A Lack of Understanding", in which ships pass tantalisingly close in the night, their alliance scuppered by doubt, and "Post Break-Up Sex", a rueful look at hasty decisions, the fatalistic, rolling melody of which imparts an air of inevitability, akin to the eternal cycles of La Ronde. If only the rest of the album had that ambition.
DOWNLOAD THIS Post Break-Up Sex; A Lack of Understanding; If You Wanna
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