Tag Archives: The Vaccines

The Vaccines ‘Come of Age’ – Review

10 Sep

What did you expect from The Vaccines? That was the question posed by the band when they titled their debut album last year. Expectations ranged from the hyperbolic, to the pessimistic; they were either the best new band since The Strokes or the most overhyped since, well, The Strokes. As I commented in my review of that album, hype and mystery surrounding new bands is no bad thing, in fact in the twitter age we live in, where every piece of information is made available and instantly dissected, it’s essential. When a band like The Vaccines get hyped it reminds me that music fans in 2012 aren’t always as passive as I sometimes imagine. When the band shroud themselves in mystery it reminds me that not everything in life is available at the tips of our fingers.

When The Vaccines emerged in 2010 I found it impossible to find photos or videos of them, to begin with all I had was the music; ‘Wreckin Bar’ and ‘If You Wanna’, which, when played back to back, came in at under three minutes but repeated for hours upon hours in my head. The less I was able to find out, the more I wanted to know. Who exactly were The Vaccines and what else did they have up their sleeve? The mystery and intrigue that surrounded them was something of a red herring, because essentially The Vaccines were, and are now even more so, a pop band with populist ambitions. They were never destined to stay in the shadows for long. Most songs on that debut straddled the same three chords, most dealt with being young and in love/lust, most came in under 2 and a half minutes. This was a band that played by long-established rules but did an excellent job of sounding new and exciting.

As if to compensate for the initial lack of information, by the end of 2011 The Vaccines were EVERYWHERE. They released six singles from the debut, one a double A-side with new track ‘Tiger Blood’, and all featuring brand new b-sides. A live album was released on Record Store Day (a second live album makes up the second disc on the deluxe edition of the new album) and an e.p has just been released featuring several cover versions of obscure punk songs (and ABBA). They’ve been on a never-ending tour since October 2010 which has included support slots for The Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire and Noel Gallagher. Over this time period they’ve been just about the only young rock group Radio 1 will touch, and turn on E4 at any given point and your sure to hear one of their songs soundtracking one tacky docu-soap or another. All this begs the question; are we ready for The Vaccines to return already? Is It a case of too much too soon? Or are they just using that momentum to build something even more special?

Here’s the dilemma; The Vaccines have been very busy, and in many ways ‘Come of Age’ is a product of that busyness. It sounds live and energetic, as if the band have literally just stepped off stage and entered the studio. The production is beefier than on the debut but the songs are still skeletal in comparison to a lot of contemporary indie rock. They sound like they were written and recorded in the space of a few hours, which pays off at times but occasionally these tracks feel underdone or not thought through with enough consideration. Surely if they had thought about it for long enough, they would have realised it was a dire decision to basically remake The Specials classic ‘Ghost Town’ as a fairground ride pastiche, or to write a song with the title ‘I Wish I was a Girl’? Their enthusiasm is charming, and in this day and age rare, but I cringe at some of their decisions here.

Overall though this is a solid second album, and the band’s impressive songwriting talent makes up for most shortcomings. Whilst it can’t top the debut, the band certainly haven’t suffered the second album dip that is so common. In every sense this is a more confident and ambitious record. The debut was dipped in reverb but ‘Come of Age’ is crisp, clear and dynamic. Every single band member sounds like a better musician, Freddie’s riffs are now noticeably thicker, Arni’s confident basslines are pushed  high in the mix and Pete’s drumming stretches him in all directions. Justin’s singing, which was noticeably restrained and polite on the debut, is now brimming with the personality it’s always exuded on stage. The melodies are usually straightforward but he knows this, and his singing is playful and expressive.

Whether the album’s considerably longer running time is down to this new-found confidence, I’m not sure I could say. Whilst you can appreciate the addition of longer fade outs and extended solos, I rather think it takes more confidence to let a song run in one and a half minutes rather than four, the length of first single ‘No Hope’. Most of these songs feel a chorus or two too long, whilst ‘Weirdo’ strains to the five minute mark without a hook or a chorus built to run that distance. Lets not forget that the double punch of ‘Wreckin Bar’ / ‘If You Wanna’ was done and dusted in three minutes, and nothing on here comes close to matching those songs.

‘Teenage Icon’ is the most instantly likeable song on ‘Come of Age’, it has the kind of infectious chorus that reminds you why the group won plaudits in the first place. Lyrically it follows the album’s main template of strangely defeatist, self-absorbed soundbites that are at odds with the new musical confidence. Over the course of the album, and several songs, Justin reveals that he’s ‘self absorbed’, ‘moody’, ‘unkind’, ‘apathetic’, ‘controlling’, ‘hard to please’, and ‘no teenage icon’. It’s not hard to see why he concludes there’s ‘no hope’ before the album’s reached its second verse. I  liked the cohesion and directness of the debut’s lyrics, here though Justin walks off in several directions, some of them embarrassingly oversimplified, some of them just plain uninteresting. ‘Teenage Icon’ is far too self aware, whilst ‘Bad Mood’, despite almost inexplicably winning me over, has more clunkers than you would think possible. In conclusion then Justin is in much better territory singing about the most simple, most primal emotions rather than his flaws and shortcomings. This is why songs like ‘All In Vain’ and ‘I always knew’, with its simple refrain of ‘It’s you, oh it’s always you, I always knew, It’s you’ work best.

My favourite song on the album is ‘Aftershave Ocean’, and perhaps that’s because it is the song that most creatively combines what was great about their debut with something genuinely innovative (by their standards). Justin is singing in a higher register, the chorus has imaginative harmonies, Freddie’s spluttering guitar actually sounds like it’s going to be sick during the solo. The chorus is pure Ringo Star/ Octopus’s Garden. I see the band’s future in a song like this (and I glimpse it in bursts across the album; the acoustic guitar in ‘I Always Knew’, the bridge in ‘All In Vain’, the restraint displayed in ‘Weirdo’) rather than the songs that rehash past glories, as wonderful and catchy as they may be. And that has to be my conclusion; The Vaccines have a bright future ahead

7.5/10

2011 in Review

4 Jan

Top 60 albums

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Top 50 Singles
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Lets go back twelve months; 2010 saw a distinct lack of big releases – by that I mean albums that were universally anticipated and/or universally applauded, either critically or commercially. It meant the end of year lists were of interest, mainly because nobody could decide on the best album released that year. According to NME it was ‘Hidden’ by These New Puritans. Pitchfork gave the honour to ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ by Kanye West, as did Rolling Stone. There were some left-field choices from Mojo (‘Queen of Denmark by John Grant’), Uncut (‘Have One on Me’ by Joanna Newsom’)and Drownedinsound (‘Does It Look Like I’m Here’ by Emeralds). I gave the title to the debut album by Avi Buffalo, a nicely restrained, humble and unspectacular record that perhaps summed up the lack of ’event’ music that year. Commercially, the biggest release of 2010 was ‘The Fame Monster’ by Lady Gaga, an album that wasn’t even an album, but a bonus disc to an already massive selling record (‘The Fame’).

2011 has been the opposite in many respects – we’ve had a whole year of ‘event music’, and highly anticipated releases. When an album becomes an event, it also becomes a big floating target for naysayers. Whilst highly anticipated albums by Tyler the Creator, Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, The Horrors, The Strokes and The Vaccines have revealed their charms over time, they received a mixed reception on release, initially disappointing some fans. But  these are the albums that have dominated this year’s lists. One above all others has been acclaimed like no other record in recent memory – ‘Let England Shake’ by P.J Harvey. It is number one on three of the above publications lists (NME, MOJO, UNCUT), and top 5 in the others.

It’s an album that doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and it’s not even in my top 60. Let me explain; War, death, suffering, identity, nationality, politics – it’s all very weighty stuff, and Harvey deals with it quite admirably in her work, but I don’t listen to pop music to hear about all that. Obviously PJ Harvey has the right to sing about these subjects if she wishes, and people have the right to say she’s amazing (I personally don’t agree – her lyrics are heavy handed and often cliched; the music is like a death march, although perhaps that‘s the point) but I also have the right to completely ignore her. That’s also why you won’t find acclaimed albums by St Vincent, Tune-yards, Destroyer or Tim Hecker on here either; these albums are difficult, and music shouldn’t be difficult – music should be natural, and honest, and direct, and catchy.

If I want to be challenged on an intellectual level, I’ll read a book, or poetry, watch a documentary, go to a gallery or maybe even a cinema – I won’t put on an album. Those other things, mostly, appeal to my head, and music appeals to my heart, or maybe my feet. Music makes me happy or it makes me sad. It makes me angry or it makes me depressed. The best music does make me think, but the second I start over-thinking is the second I turn off, both physically and metaphorically.

The number one album on my list this year is ‘Suck It and See’ by Arctic Monkeys’, an album that, in its own way, is more perfectly scripted and nuanced than ‘Let England Shake’ could ever hope to be. And yet it never draws attention to its wordiness; if you wanted to you could get lost in the syllables, the rhythms and rhymes, Alex’s punctured delivery and the breathy harmonies; you could forget about something as arguably meaningless as meaning. However, if you’re so inclined you could allow yourself to be bowled over by the finer details – the delicious adjectives (‘thunder suckle fuzz canyon’), the proper nouns that distinguish time and place (‘Rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock’ – and by the way, drink in the way Turner slurs ‘ACANADAN-ddilion and burdoch’), the surrealist metaphors (‘Topless Models doing semaphore, wave their flags as she walks by and get ignored’) and the canny observations about ageing (pretty much every song on the album, but ‘Love is a Lazorquest’ in particular.)

Turner has grown as a SONGWRITER – it was first in evidence on the wonderful ‘Submarine’ released earlier this year, an e.p that shares the top spot with ‘Suck It and See’ on my list, as it‘s equally important in its own way. Here we have six songs that deal with growing up slowly, sadly and innocently. These stories were set to music as far removed from the brash urgency of the Arctic’s famous debut as it is possible to get. This is a quiet, delicate and old-fashioned e.p that shows off Alex’s newly found confidence in his own voice.

The subject that links the two records, or rather the person that links the two records, is an unnamed femme-fettle, perhaps the same woman who left her footprints all over The Last Shadow Puppets ‘Age of the Understatement‘, and perhaps the same woman who just broke Alex’s poor heart. A woman so captivating that she actually IS thunderstorms, a woman so dangerous that her hands may well have done the Devil’s manicure, and a woman so spellbinding that topless models can’t draw your eyes away from her.

On ‘Black Treacle’ the stars hide away because she won’t come outside, whilst over on ‘Stuck on the Puzzle’, from the Submarine e.p, she’s pulling the same trick again – as Alex observes, ‘something in your magnetism must have pissed them off, forcing them to get an early night.’ Alex tells these stories with a wit and humour we’ve not seen from him since the early days of the band, and it’s a pleasure to listen to his observations. Romance, lust, longing, heartbreak – here we have the arena In which the best pop music excels – forget about politics!

Musically, ‘Suck It and See’ was a move away from the heavy experimentation of ‘Humbug’, towards a jingly-jangly, indie-pop sound. Their influences haven’t been this easy to name since the debut; Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Beatles, Beach Boys etc – bands that were popular before the boys were even born. It’s all very traditional and not at all innovative, but it works, because nobody can play better than Alex, Jamie, Matt and Nick. They’ve never sounded as tight or as confident (and it takes a really confident band to release the semi-joke song ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ as the first single).

‘Suck It and See’ is my favourite album of the year because it ticks ever box. Great song-writing, great lyrics, great melodies, great harmonies great variety – and it’s by a great band with buckets of personality. Nobody’s saying Suck It and See is innovative, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t inspirational. Nobody’s saying it talks about weighty subjects like war and politics, but that doesn’t mean it’s not clever. And, nobody’s saying that this is going to be the album 2011 will be remembered for by most people, but it’s certainly the record I will remember 2011 for.

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Moving away from the Monkeys; what else has impressed me this year? At number two on my list is ‘What Did You Expect from The Vaccines’, an album that is perfect in its simplicity and directness – three chords and your out. Perhaps the quote of the year comes from Noel Gallagher, who brilliantly observed that ‘rock’n’roll is merely the re-telling of a great story for a new generation’, and in my opinion, The Vaccines re-told it better than any young British band has in years; this is a debut album to ignite and inspire a generation of guitar groups. There were also amazing rock records this year from Girls, The Drums, Miles Kane, Grouplove, Yuck, Noah and the Whale, and that’s just for starters – if last year had a distinct LACK of rock n roll, then 2011 has more than made up for it.

Hip Hop in 2011 was very much dominated by Odd Future. The general conscencious is that Tyler’s singles were much better than the album turned out to be. I’m not denying that ‘Goblin’ was hit and miss, it’s just that when it hit (‘Yonkers’, ‘Sandwitches’, ‘She’, ‘Analogue’, ‘Her’) it hit harder than arguably anything released all year. However, It now transpires that the real star of Odd Future may actually be Frank Ocean, who, among other things, released the marvellous ‘Nostalgia Ultra’, wrote the best song on Jay Z and Kanye’s lame duck of an album, and contributed a fine number to Beyonce’s ‘4’.

Elsewhere, I enjoyed Shabazz Palaces’ debut, (surprisingly the first ever hip hop album released on Sub Pop), Mellow hype also really impressed, as did Death Grips’ mix tape. On the other hand I was supremely let down by  Theophilus London’s first full length, and the aforementioned Jay Z/ Kanye West collaboration.

In Dance there was a great deal of stuff going on, but in my opinion a lot less of real interest than in years gone by. Rustie made the most ENJOYABLE dub-step record I’ve ever heard, Katy B and Jamie Woon crossed over in a very interesting way, as did James Blake. Washed Out, Toddla T, Kisses and The Rapture all made excellent stuff at the more indie end of the dance spectrum, and at the more ‘dancey’ end there was good new music from old favourites Joy Orbison, Burial and fresh faces like seplacure, Joe Goddard and the excellent SBTRKT.

The mainstream pop world was, as expected, dominated by vast amounts of guff and nonsense. JLS, One Direction and Katy Perry all had big years, as did all the awful x factor hopefuls. In retrospect the ambitious Lady Gaga album was not as good as I originally  thought It was (or probably wanted it to be), but the Beyonce album was really good, as was Rihanna’s latest run of singles. And I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoyed the Ed Sheeran album, in particular the brilliant ‘A-Team’ song. By all accounts Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts made a strong debut (not got around to hearing It yet) and Foster the People had a massive (and massively deserved) crossover hit single and album to boast about. Of course the real star of 2011, and justifiably so, was Adele, who had the biggest selling album of the millennium with the excellent ‘21’. Most pleasing of all was the fact that the album was massive because it had classic songs sung by a stunning voice, not because of hype, over promotion or dirty videos.

As per usual there was a lot of overly hyped indie coming from America, some of it good and some of it bad. I really didn’t get the fuss around Real Estate, Cults, Kurt Vile, St Vincent, Tune-yards, and especially the awful, just awful, Dirty Beaches. However, Smith Westerns released an amazing album after battling much blog attention, and I’m really looking forward to hearing more from EMA, and Surf Connection, who released justifiably praised debuts this year.

Of course, a large part of the list is made up of old favourites. Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, The Strokes, The Horrors, British Sea Power and Bombay Bicycle Club have all made some of my favourite albums of the past few years, and whilst none of the albums they released this year can honestly compare with their older stuff, they still really impressed me. Even more established bands returned this year, and some surprised with just how good they still are. Foo Fighters released their best album yet, and I was pleased to see the return of the Chili Peppers and Blink 182. Of course some acts proved they were stuck in a bit of a middle-aged rut (The Gallagher brothers, U2, and Metallica spring to mind.)

I don’t think 2011 has been a knock out year for music, in the long run it will probably be remembered for Adele, and not a lot else if we’re being honest. Of course a whole book could be written about how the way we consume music is rapidly developing, so I won’t even begin to dwell on that, but needless to say – everything’s changing and we can take nothing for granted. Who knows what next year will bring, but with already conformed release from The Shins, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective and Specter on the way, 2012 is already looking pretty promising…

The Vaccines ‘Tiger Blood’

23 Oct

A few weeks ago we found out that The Vaccines had been working with Albert Hammond Jr on some new material, and you can hear the result of this meeting of minds below. ‘Tiger Blood’ will feature on a double A side along with album track ‘Wetsuit’ (the seventh song to be released from that amazing debut album!) and it’s out in December. Just listen to how Strokesy those guitar sound…

Mercury prize alternative list

25 Jul

The Mercury Music prize nominations were announced last week and I noticed that a lot of great albums were left off the list. To compensate I have created an alternative list, featuring albums I feel got overlooked (rules are the album had to be released between July 2010 and July 2011). It’s not that I disagreed with all the official nominations (although how Everything Everything made it is beyond me!) it’s just that I don’t believe that the list fully represents the best British music of the past twelve months (however a few of those albums deserve the recognition as much as any of the below). You can see the original list HERE and view my alternative selection (i.e albums that didn’t make the official nominations) along with an example of the artists work, below.

Arctic Monkeys – ‘Suck It and See’

British Sea Power – ‘Vallhalla Dancefloor’

Cats Eyes ‘ Cats Eyes’

The Horrors –  ‘Skying’

Jamie xx – ‘We’re New Here’

Magnetic Man – ‘Magnetic Man’

Miles Kane – ‘The Colour of the Trap’

Radiohead – ‘King of Limbs’

Rose Elinor Dougell – ‘Without Why’

The Vaccines ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’

Wild Beasts – ‘Smother’

Yuck – ‘Yuck’

News News News

7 Jul

First off, Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines have released new music videos this week which you can view below.

Girls made one of 2009’s best albums (‘Album’) and one of 2010’s best mini-albums (‘Broken Dreams Club’) and this september they will be looking to make it a hat-trick when they release their third album ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost.’ The tracklisting and cover art is below.

1. Honey Bunny
2. Alex
3. Die
4. Saying I Love You
5. My Ma
6. Vomit
7. Just A Song
8. Magic
9. Forgiveness
10. Love Like A River
11. Jamie Marie

Also this week, Noel Gallagher has finally released details about his long-awaited solo album, which we now know will be called ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’. You can watch the press conference and view the album details over at NME.

‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’ The Vaccines – Review

13 Mar

When did hyping a new band become such a crime? Sorry Pitchfork but we don’t all want to sit around at our laptops, stroking out chin and listening dispassionately to some fusion of jazz and hardcore, or whatever it is that turns these people on. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that either as long as people do it in the privacy of their own home and don’t insist on boring the world with it – BUT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HYPING A NEW BAND EITHER! We hype new bands when we get excited, we get excited because by its very nature rock n roll is exciting, and maybe we get excited because the band remind us of the groups that got us into music in the first place, or alternatively because said band are getting us into music for the first time. So no, I won’t apologize for getting really, really caught up in the hype surrounding The Vaccines – and boy is there hype.

Let’s suppose you are 14, that you’ve never heard Gene Vincent, The Zombies, The Beach Boys, The Ramones, The Undertones, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Sonic Youth and The Strokes – this is the person that The Vaccines are here for. They take the best bits of those bands and put them in a blender, creating an easy to swallow and pretty delicious concoction. But ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’ is more than that; simply, it’s the best British debut album since ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’ – and that was released nearly half a decade ago. That’s saying as much about the ill-health of UK indie music as it is about the brilliance of The Vaccines, but the point still stands.

Whilst there have been some classic British albums since 2006 there hasn’t been a new band come along with such swagger, identity and, frankly, such massive tunes. Just listen to the opening; ‘Wreckin Bar’ is 86 seconds of pure punk energy in which they somehow find time to cram in a football terrace chant (‘ra ra ra ra’) a lyric about F. Scott Fitzgerald and a guitar solo ripped straight from 1956 (as played by Nick Valensi).

For most bands this would be the highlight but The Vaccines have ten other songs competing for your attention and just when you think the album’s peaked they manage to top themselves. ‘If You Wanna’ is pure pop perfection, and when I say perfection I mean perfection. To start with the structure is just magical; the bassline walks you in and then the thudding drum keeps the song moving the rest of the way. The verses are dynamic, the chorus is anthemic, the bridge is heartbreaking, the solo is classic and then it leads into to the chaotic outro. Not a second is wasted, it isn’t a chorus, a word or a guitar solo too long; every part serves a purpose. Best of all however is the lyrics, which capture complex emotions in simple and memorable bites, ‘That’s what all the friends I do not like as much as you say’, and the way it’s repeated, is particularly brilliant.

Anyone of these songs (excluding the epic ‘Family Friend’ and the gentle piano ballad ‘Somebody Else’s Child’) could be released as a single. ‘Norrgard’ is the first five Beach Boys albums distilled into one and a half minutes (with lyrics in the mould of a naughty, cosmopolitan Alex Turner), ‘Wetsuit’ has festival Anthem written all over it and if ‘All in White’ doesn’t provide the climactic soundtrack to some drama by the end of the year then I’ll eat my socks. And I’ve not even talked about the other songs that have been released as singles, ‘Blow it Up’ and ‘Post Break Up Sex’, which are still out of this world.

‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’ may sound like a greatest hits but it flows more like a classic album thanks to the clever sequencing that sits the faster songs in between the slower ones. It should also be noted that the production goes right for the jugular; whilst the demo of ‘If you wanna’ and the single version of ‘Wreckin Bar’ were sonic cousins of the lo-fi scene, these songs have been polished and remixed for the album which has been given a bright and clear mix. In fact, my one gripe with the album would be that it’s a bit too produced for my liking, I prefered ‘If you Wanna’ and ‘Wreckin Bar’ when they had a bit more grit. But that really is my only gripe – well, that and there’s a few lyrical clunkers here and there. Overall, ‘What Did You Expect…’ is what it is and whilst it wont be everyone’s cup of tea if you like this kind of stuff then I don’t see how you couldn’t fall in love with it.

It’s easy for someone familiar with rock history to be cynical when a new band that sound a lot like many older bands are called the saviours of indie (especially when indie really doesn’t need saving), but to your average 14-year-old who doesn’t know Cbgb’s from Kfc then a band like The Vaccines are absolutely vital. And I think that if you reconnect with your inner teenager then you too could get extremely excited by The Vaccines because there is no doubt that the British music scene has been lacking a band like this for a while. It all kind of rests on your perception and what you expect from The Vaccines. Personally I expected great things and they have more than delivered.

9.5/10


New Songs I Can’t Get Out Of My Head

23 Feb

So just a bried round up of some new music that has me excited, starting with a cool band called Bass Drum of Death (best band name ever!)

Young Pros by Bass Drum of Death

Wade in by Joy Orbison (at last a new song by Joy, woooop!!!)

Someone Like you by Adele

If You Wanna (New Single Version!!) by The Vaccines

Garden by totally extinct Dinosaurs

Punching in a Dream by The Naked and Famous

I Knew it Was Over by Cat’s Eyes

Get Away by Yuck

Yonkers by Tyler the Creator