Over the past five years, ‘The Vaccines’ have captured the hearts of teenage indie girls and sober old music fans alike. Their brand of energetic indie guitar pop is guaranteed to bring anybody to the dance floor for a brief moment of innocence and childlike abandon.
Following 2012’s sophomore release ‘Come of Age’, which spawned the hit single, “Teenage Icon”, the group are back with a third album that will certainly surprise nobody. Most bands tend to stick to their original sound for an album or two before commencing on a journey of musical experimentation and ‘The Vaccines’ are no exception. ‘English Graffiti’ dabbles in a noticeably more synth driven sound, with a myriad of rich leads and dreamy pads adorning most tracks. The group’s familiar guitar sounds have been transformed into a barrage of fuzzy riffs and abrasive overdrive that wouldn’t sound out of place on a garage rock record. These two elements meld together surprisingly well, most noticeably on the track ‘Denial’, which features an unbelievably coarse guitar sound and glorious synth-like background.
The album opens with the lead single, ‘Handsome’, which demonstrates that anything that isn’t a synth or a vocal is pushed to the very limit sonically. The theme of this album is definitely “distortion”. This track is a fine example of the happy-go-lucky punk-lite attitude displayed in previous Vaccines singles; upbeat, simple and blissful, all over in less than three minutes. The bursting bass line and jangling guitars, all glossed with a liberal helping of overdrive, help to build an energy that causes unintentional head-nodding. The songs ’20/20′ and ‘Radio Bikini’ also adhere to this catchy mantra, offering a slightly edgier take on the traditional Vaccines formula.
It is in its slower numbers, however, where this is album tends to show its cracks. ‘(All Afternoon) In Love’ wouldn’t be completely out of place in a run-of-the-mill indie teen movie. This demonstrates that even when the group attempts an emotion other than happiness; it ends up sounding remarkably teeny and simplified. ‘Want You So Bad’ is also an example of the slower side of this album, evoking memories of any slow, forgettable album track from a young band of the past 10 years. I suppose most albums have their “skippable tracks”. The trend continues with the track “Maybe I Could Hold You”, which feels like a classic throwaway track that shows up halfway through the second side. Borrowing heavily from the large choruses of Arctic Monkey’s ‘AM’, this track simply goes nowhere.
The main downfall of this album is its blatant goal to shift units. While this is obviously not at all rare in the music business, or even particularly shameful, it always seems to suck the life out of a band. This album feels a little bit like somebody put ‘The Vaccines’ in a box with some guitars and synths and compressed them. Proof that yesterday’s outsiders are just today’s mainstream.
Overall, this album competently achieves its goals; it is a simple, carefree collection of pop rock songs. The songwriting is just as dulcet and catchy as their previous two efforts and fans of the bad will no doubt applaud this latest release. Does this album break any pop conventions? Is it the ushering in of a new sonic direction? No. Does it need to? Of course not.
‘English Graffiti’ is out now on Sony Music Entertainment UK.
The full track-listing for ‘English Graffiti’ is as follows…
‘(All Afternoon) In Love’
‘Want You So Bad’
‘Maybe I Could Hold You’
You can see ‘The Vaccines’ live at one of these venues…