Image copyright of @BristolPicture
Written by Ollie Grenier, Spark Secretary.
Those who have followed the Vaccines since release, like I have, will appreciate that their experimental-pop third album of ‘English Graffiti’, although having some strong singles, was a below par performance. A couple years in the wilderness and a slight line-up change, and the Vaccines have fought back with their newest release. Bubbling with fast-paced rockers that relentlessly come at you one after the other, the band has rediscovered what made them so exciting when they burst on to the scene back in 2011.
Justin Hayward-Young has used the mantra of ‘less is more’ in his lyrics, swapping the cliché indie rock metaphors for original and often heartfelt lyrics (although one or two occasionally slip back in. See the first lines of “Surfing in the Sky”). Lead guitarist Freddie Cowan’s powerful riffs and licks ring around the album, and seem destined to be blasted out on stage leaving the crowd in awe, and probably with ringing ears too!
The album starts off thoughtfully with “Put It On a T-Shirt.” With its rolling drumbeat and chiming guitars, the song sets the tone for the album and demonstrates the new attitude of bandleader, Justin. One can sense an inner resolve within the singer, as he seems relaxed in his own words, with maturity in his voice (never heard before) that gives him a real swagger. The primary single of the album “I Can’t Quit” quickly follows, a song clearly made for the live stage with the pounding fuzz guitar a constant throughout. The bridge exemplifies a band at one with their sound and how comfortable they are, “You can’t change me can you?” – and this is a song I expect to start hearing regularly at Q Club’s indie nights on a Thursday!
“Your Love Is My Favourite Band” is one that fans of the Strokes will get a sense of familiarity from. Notably, its upbeat rhythm and east coast sound, suiting this sweet little love song of a man doing all he can for a woman who will never quite understand his feelings. This is a theme that recurs within several songs on this album. This is clearest in the fifth song of the album “Maybe (Luck of the Draw)” when Justin serenades “Maybe I want to spend my life with you, I wanna feel like other people do.”
The fourth and sixth tracks on this album are the clear weak points, with the latter a slow (and heavily sexual) ballad that some may enjoy as a welcomed break of pace. But for me personally, it only succeeds in shattering the perfectly built momentum of the early stages of this album. With lyrics like “Suffocate me in between your thighs,” I need not say anymore.
The following stream of “Nightclub”, “Out On The Street” and “Take It Easy” (the stages of a night out?) is what I view as the most enjoyable section of this album. “Nightclub,” despite the repetitive cry of the chorus, highlights the power of the Vaccines’ melodies and provides an original description of the madness of falling in love. “Out On the Street” is rivaled only by “Your Love…” in terms of catchiness with Justin’s near-falsetto chorus, rebellious spirit, and lyrics most young-and-in-love students will easily relate to. “Take It Easy” is silky smooth, with humour in lyrics like “Give me your words of wisdom but don’t make me take the class,” and a chorus most university students will heed with pride (but you’ll have to listen yourself to see why).
The album ends strongly with the two songs “Someone to Lose” and “Rolling Stones,” the former being a typical Hayward-Young self-humbling love song that puts himself down, whilst claiming himself to be the bigger man in the situation. “Rolling Stones” is a fitting end to the album, with witty lyrics that could be some of Hayward-Young’s finest, “the easy way out isn’t tailor-made.”
In a time where the guitar is back to being a mainstream sound, it is only fitting that the Vaccines are part of it. Clearly rejuvenated by fresh members in the band, it is hard to fault any of the five members for execution, be it Hayward-Young’s crisp vocals that are stronger than ever, Cowan’s clinical execution of every riff on the album, or Yoann Intonti’s impressive debut performance on the drums. This is the Vaccines’ strongest album to date: it has something for everybody and at a mere 33 minutes run time, I recommend that everyone gives it a listen.