Album Review: The Vaccines ‘The Vaccines Come of Age’

jason stives gets his new booster shot…

Rule number 1 for rock music in the 21st century: You can’t please the masses AND the critics at the same time. Rock critics in the transitional 2010s live by personal codas that either emphasize a desire to see something re-emerge from the past or progress into what they deem is the next logical step in the art form that was time called rock n’ roll music. These two codas are also greatly separated by huge bodies of water and telling an American independent rock critic from an old school British rock critic is very obvious.


Take the universal views of The Vaccines, a band whose 2011 debut What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? satisfied the irony laden world of current music and the regurgitation of past sounds into a plausible 2010 radio format. The band was seemingly in the no man’s land of appeal, somewhere between a niche and a mass and decidingly not everyone’s cup of tea. Never the less they developed success and appeal for either being a slick indie rock band or being a cop-out similar to act that had followed in the wake of bands like the Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, and Razorlight.

Fittingly the Vaccines have titled their sophomore effort The Vaccines Come of Age, a declaration that maybe the cheeky would be habits displayed on their debut release didn’t fit in any particular stream of conscious. In a way they have attached themselves with a tried and true identity of scrappy indie rock with a punk laze fare repertoire. With less emphasis on brooding ghostly guitar echoes and twinkling distant verses …Come of Age has the feel of a crass rock album released in the mid 2000s and that is perfectly fine. It’s neither a perfect specimen nor is it not an admirable follow up; in fact, it might be one of the most enjoyable straight and narrow rock records I have heard this year.

Much like their debut, lead singer Justin Young has chosen lyrically to avoid fitting a type and abandoning the identity of the press for being misconstrued. Recent single “Teenage Icon,” which resurrects memories of Frankie Avalon from surfer purgatory claims to be neither magnetic or mythical but suburban and typical. It’s a very coy observation of the identity of a popular act and even so maybe Young wishes he was something he clearly is not. Take the track “I Wish I Was a Girl” in which the band coos about easy life by being are easy on the eyes. Obviously, the Vaccines get they are desirable and the gender confusion is an amusing way to discuss their sudden celebrity status in the UK in their two years of existence.

But …Come of Age isn’t just about clever commentary as it is about blistering Minor Threat like riffs and chicken scratch songs. Both “Ghost town” and “Bad Mood” are moody, thrashy numbers that balance the more sixties garage rock blasts like “In Vein” and “I Always Knew” which closely resemble some of the numbers of their first record. The album’s lead single “No Hope” pretty much sums up not only the band’s intentions with their second release in less than 2 years but maybe their mission statement. The band sings about being so self obsessed about where they are going than if they represent the next voice of reason in rock music and that in a way makes them far more in line with mid 20s youth than most bands try to be. The Vaccines just might be onto something even if they are still searching for their exact identity so it’s better for them to just keep pumping out the catchy tunes than trying to be something they aren’t.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Excellent)