The Vaccines – Come Of Age

Most criticism surrounding The Vaccines usually revolves around the notion that their sound is business-as-usual for garage-influenced Brit pop, another band trying to fill the void left when The Libertines exited the scene. Their first record, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines, was ironically exactly what I expected from The Vaccines: a well-executed but less edgy version of Arctic Monkeys. But it was also a delectably listenable effort, requiring little to no use of the fast forward button. This is a band whose success hinges on their ability to craft upbeat rock songs, not their ability to break new ground with experimental sounds that are purposeful in their ignorance of convention. They’re not Radiohead, nor should they try to be.

A question mark now hovers over Come Of Age, their second LP due out on October 2nd. Are The Vaccines worthy of distinction among all the other bands in the flood? Can they write a second record worthy of their hype? The answer to that question will, of course, depend on who you ask and why they like the band in the first place. This record is more of a Jekyll and Hyde listening experience than its predecessor, evoking feelings of contentment followed by head-scratching moments of confusion from track to track, and it’s not what is expected from The Vaccines. It’s interesting lyrically and intriguing in how subtly, yet inherently different it is from their last LP. The music still retains that pop sensibility hidden under those crunchy guitars, a delicate balance that allows the band to deserve “indie” status even while hardcore garage rock fans look down upon them for being too accessible to the masses. The sound itself delves into a completely different area from a genre perspective and this may or may not alienate their fan base.

“No Hope”


The first track, “No Hope,” is a keystone in the archway so to speak; it connects this new effort with The Vaccines of old (it’s a garage song with a sing-along chorus) and sets the thematic stage as Young sings, “When you’re 24 and all aboard / and don’t know who you are no more / there’s no hope and it’s tough to come of age.”  Young’s lyrics are usually delivered in a frank, matter-of-fact way, and he hasn’t lost his touch for connecting his lyrics to our day-to-day existence. Nowadays things are just much bleaker than they used to be, and this is a common theme throughout.

“I Always Knew” begins to ease us into the musical differences on this record, introducing that surf feel that makes you want to grab your best girl and head to the beach before the sock hop. The guitar quivers, and Young’s voice takes on this whisper-serenade quality as he delivers, “Let’s go to bed before you say something real / let’s go to bed before  you say how you feel.” The lyrics are rather depressed throughout and often oddly juxtaposed with upbeat music, but you can be equally carefree when you’ve given up on it all, too. Whether he’s meek and self-critical (“Weirdo”) or decrying the idea of icon status (“Teenage Icon”), Young delivers a message loud and clear; his version of coming of age isn’t a good thing.

The songs that stand out on the record need multiple spins, an acclamation process that allows us to come to terms with the idea that this is not a continuation of their earlier work. “All In Vein,” “Weirdo” and “Aftershave Ocean” fall into this category, showcasing a departure towards 60s-influenced pop that uses very Beatles-esque arrangements. These songs work in contrast to others like”No Hope” and “Change of Heart Pt. 2,” rock sing-alongs that are derivative of songs from What Did You Expect from The Vaccines.

While the record title suggests a maturity, whether in sound or in the depth of lyrical content, the band seems to do the exact opposite from a musical standpoint. Come Of Age finds The Vaccines deconstructing their once full sound, cutting the ethereal reverb present in most of the songs on What Did You Expect and replacing it with plucky, vibrato-laden guitar licks; it’s a crock pot mixture of surf rock and 60s pop. It’s change but it’s regressive. If anyone “came of age,” maybe it is singer Justin Young. His nihilistic, there-is-no-god laments on women and society are a reflection of all the negative associations we make with growing older or maturing — you come of age when you realize that love doesn’t last and life isn’t fair. The Vaccines make strides on this record, both thematically and musically, and deliver a solid sophomore effort. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think.

 Stream Come Of Age on Guardian

Watch the video for “Teenage Icon”


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