Review: The Vaccines – ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’

What Did You Expect From The VaccinesWith their offstage charisma notching up to about nil on the rock and roll scale, what did you expect from The Vaccines? Since their birth in 2010, they’ve given us none of the old-fashioned rebellion that generally comes hand-in-hand with limited 3-chord progressions and echoing, megaphonic vocals – quite the opposite, in fact – as a group of personalities they seem to be downright placid. However, between snatching 3rd place in the BBC’s Sound of 2011, an MTV award nomination and a downpour of critical acclaim, there must be something to hold onto, right? Right.

Wielding a sound wedged in the undeniably generic piece of the pie-chart, it may not be an album that will turn the world on its axis and prompt a sea of blossoming youths to smash up every electronic gadget in sight but, as far as debuts go, The Vaccines have certainly expressed their musical potential. It’s impossible to deny that they’ve created a package of genuinely good tunes; there’s no fumbling around in profundity, no attempts to unveil the secrets of the universe, just slap-a-smile-on-your-face simplicity. Whichever way you want to look at it, there’s always a little more room for that, and The Vaccines have taken the baton firmly in their hands – strolling into the limelight as though it’s precisely where they should be, and have been, and will be for quite some time.

Tackling subjects like the futility of casual sex, seventeen year old girls, break-ups, makes-ups and the incessant craving for that little something more, the album is like opening up a case-full of teenage libido and letting it rain down upon your brain. Instrumentally in-elaborate and kind of refreshing, the tracks flow through led by the occasionally Morrissey-esque vocals of Justin Young and after no time at all, you find yourself almost guiltily humming along with the sheer light-heartedness of it all. Within every song, there’s a hook to hold onto that keeps your foot a-tapping in its inescapable catchiness, and really, admittedly, it’s difficult not to enjoy such a cheeky collection of tunes.

Throughout the album, amongst its sunny overtones, lies a certain hint of gloominess that gives you a peek into the knowledge that even The Vaccines have had their human trials and troubles – ‘Wetsuit‘, for instance expresses the frustration that comes with racing against time and always trying to keep that spark of youth aflame as the years tick tock away; the solution is, of course, to slap on a wetsuit and grow your hair. Easy peasy.

The album concludes with the semi-shoegaze tones of ‘Family Friend‘, chugging along almost pensively and with a cosy, instrumental rhythmic ascension until you’re launched into the tail-end of the track with Young’s vocals being buried deeper and deeper beneath the erratic copulation of sounds until it seems his vocal chords might just rupture with the delightful strain that’s pourin’ out from them. The sneaky, hidden track that creeps along behind it expresses the potential of their musical versatility – stripping down the sound to a surprisingly raw and sentimental piano and vocal duet, tugging at just the right amount of heart-strings, and whispering that maybe there’s a little more to The Vaccines than their simple, steady rollin’.

After giving us just what we’d expect, they seem set to hand us a whole lot more – they might surprise us, they might not. Either way, their debut is pretty much sure to sell like hot cakes.

(Alisha Riley)

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