Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

An awesome album name. That’s all it took for me to get hooked on The Vaccines with their infectious, impressive debut, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Immediately, the title reminded me of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (which is one of my favorite albums of all time) and as a result I became drawn to this band.

As you can tell, my music tastes are quite diverse and extremely eclectic with what I want to write about. As a result, it’s difficult deciding what bands to discuss. Sometimes to my surprise there are bands everyone knows while there are others “they are just discovering.” Today is a case of the latter. Like most of my inspirations, a friend recently reminded me about a band I first fell in love with last year, The Vaccines.

While discussing the current Coachella lineup my friend asked, “Who are The Vaccines?” Knowing very well he enjoyed Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, I decided to play him The Vaccines’ debut album. My friend was surprised that he thoroughly enjoyed The Vaccines and with a big smile I responded, “What Did You Expect?”

What I love most about The Vaccines is they possess an indie rock sound that transcends the Atlantic. They’re part alternative and post-punk revival, yet seem to resonate with fans from all mainstream genres. Some bands remain nothing more than “local” because they lack a widespread appeal. That does not necessarily mean mainstream success, but the quality and musical message they present lack substance worthy of attention outside their various locales. This is not the case at all for The Vaccines. Everyone can relate to their songs.

For those unfamiliar about the aforementioned English bands, The Vaccines are similar to bands like The Drums, Grouplove, Noah and The Whale, The Strokes, Two Door Cinema Club, and Vampire Weekend. This English quartet is comprised of Justin Young (guitars and vocals), Árni Hjörvar (bass), Freddie Cowan (guitar) and Pete Robertson (drums).

What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is a delightful debut that delivers one terrific track after the other. This full-length debut demonstrates it’s possible to create an 11 track album worthy of your time that’s not cookie cutter bullshit. Young’s vocals permeate incredible rawness that knocks these songs out of the park.

Beginning with the contagious “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” The Vaccines immediately expose you to fantastic, fresh catchy lyrics. “ Pretty girl, wreckin’ bar/ Ra, ra, ra, ra, here you are/ Blowing up ‘bout twice a night/ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, here I am/ The Angel’s Game, F. Scott Fitzgerald/ The Evening News and the Morning Herald/ I know they’re not from very far/ But les femmes la-bas, c’est pas de joie.”

One of my personal favorites, “If You Wanna” follows. Regardless if it’s your first time or the 20th time, I guarantee you will sing along, “I don’t wanna do things independently/But I can’t make you stay/ That’s what all the friends/ I do not like as much as you say/ But if you wanna come back it’s alright, it’s alright.” Declaring your love for someone is one of the easiest, yet hardest things to do. Personal heartache is never easy to overcome and I absolutely love their songs dealing with this subject matter.

Even on the track, “A Lack of Understanding,” this heartache really resonates with me and for people still hung up on that special someone. Just the other day I stumbled upon some old photos of past girlfriends and this song came on. Boy did it really hit home with several former flames who no longer talk to me.  This genuine grieving tune brings chills all over my body with its haunting, yet true lyrics: “It’s only been a year/ But it feels like a lifetime here/ How’s it been for you? / Does it feel like a lifetime? / What would you do now in light of it all? I don’t regret it in spite of it all/ If I can’t convince you/ Then nobody can, I guess/ I’ve got too much time on my hands/ But you don’t understand/ Or you won’t understand.”

Justin Young sounds reminiscent of Joey Ramone on the peculiar “Blow It Up,” but I find it quite perplexing why this simple song persists amongst such gut-wrenching tales of woe. The captivating, catchy “Wetsuit,” with its infectious chorus “Put a wetsuit on, come on, come on/ Grow your hair out long, come on, come/ Put a T-shirt on/ Do me wrong, do me wrong, do me wrong,” is also a must listen.

Sex is all you need. It doesn’t get better than “Post Break-Up Sex,” which address the depressing subject matter in a charming way. Overcoming a relationship encompasses enduring one awkward moment after the other and this absolutely addictive song, much like that relationship, lingers in your mind for weeks. This frank and forthright tune deserves your attention in an age where vulnerability should always be recognized.

The song starts off, “I can barely look at you, Don’t tell me who you lost it to/ Didn’t we say we had a deal? / Didn’t I say how bad I feel? / Everyone needs a helping hand/ Who said I would not understand? / Someone up the social scale/ For when you’re going off the rail/ Post break up sex that helps you forget your ex/ What did you expect from post break-up sex?/ Leave it ‘til the guilt consumes/ I found you in the nearest room/ All our friends were unaware/ Most had just passed out downstairs/ To think I hoped you’d be okay/ Now I can’t think of what to say/ Maybe I misunderstood/ But I can’t believe you’re feeling good” and all I can say is wow! A barrage of emotions overtake us when we experience breakups and those feelings persist throughout our life.  For everyone who has experienced distress, this song should resonate with you.

Down to the final four tracks, The Vaccines surrender some sensational and emotional tunes that highlight them speaking from their heart. “Under Your Thumb” feels like Kings of Leon meets The Smiths, the overwhelming bassline on “All in White” brilliantly captures their vulnerability, the tight tempo “Wolf Pack” leaves you begging for more and the album concludes with the enchanting, evolving and epic “Family Friend.

If you’re looking for that next great English band then The Vaccines is the band for you. Last year when I compiled my Top 10 Albums of 2011, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? narrowly missed the cut and persists to be one of the best debuts albums to emerge in the past five years. Fortunately for fans, their sophomore album is due out later this year and I can hardly wait.

--Mr Brownstone

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