A year after the release of their incendiary debut album which saw them heralded as the messiahs of the apparently necessary guitar revival (no pressure then, lads), the Vaccines return with ‘Come of Age’.
It’s important to note that, for a band that has only been together for the best part of two years, the Vaccines are pretty prolific at spewing material out by the current going rate. With this in mind, it brings even greater gratification to find that any doubts of them joining the notorious ‘second album syndrome’ indie camp are put to bed.
Lead single, ‘No Hope, is the first phase of the Vaccines’ foray into adolescence, and you can almost hear their first collective pube sprouting. Justin Young’s newfound bravado allows him to stretch his erstwhile deep vocal range with brazen snarls, growls and yelps that Julian Casablancas would be proud of. Freddie Cowan brings some hazy Howler-esque riffs to dinner. And Ethan Johns’ production style allows the instruments breathing space to maintain a more relaxed, candid energy, that flows throughout the LP, from the bass-led introverted grunge of ‘Weirdo’, to the semi-acoustic jaunts of ‘All In Vain,’ a song wearing its George Harrison influences unashamedly on its sleeve.
Second track, ‘I Always Knew’ is basically the Vaccines unfortunate take on Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’. Remember that irksome falsetto, “La-la-la-la-laa”? Well, the opening riff is essentially a polyphonic conversion, and you won’t be able to distill this from your memory once the realisation sets in. Luckily, vintage Vaccines is delivered through the festival-ready, teen angst smothered ‘Bad Mood’, with the banal, most conspicuously Justin Young lyrics Justin Young has ever written here buoyed by Freddie Cowan’s blustering riffing. The best moment on the album is the lush, melodious serenity of ‘Aftershave Ocean’, which sounds like a forgotten Blur classic circa ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ era, showcasing the Vaccines’ potential to write ingraining hooks that don’t rely on thrashing guitars. ‘I Wish I Was A Girl’ is further proof of this: Southern-influenced guitars sway sedately underneath Young’s nonchalant vocals, offering a surprisingly faint paradox that works surprisingly well and sees them truly come of age.
It’s a bold move for a band like the Vaccines to not attempt to replicate their debut album sound and play it safe to appease an already vast fanbase, a move that undeniably deserves its praise. They’ve managed to solidify and expand on the niche they cemented in their emphatic debut, experimenting and offering more developed lyrics and ideas whilst retaining the primitiveness and simplicity that initially caught attention, with the urgency of ‘Teenage Icon’ a superlative nourishment for fans craving another ‘Nørgaard.’ If you take the quartet at face value, and accept them for what they are – a guitar-pop band still finding their feet – you’re in for some indubitable, damn fun.
“I’m nobody’s hero” croons Young over the blistering, fretboard climbing riffs of ‘Teenage Icon.’ Whether they’re being ironic or sincere, only they know, but they’re getting there nonetheless.