The Vaccines – Come of Age
by Nick Hugon (International Affairs), published September 21st 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
The Vaccines’ debut LP begs an interesting question in its very title: What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The question is excruciatingly valid for anyone partial to post-punk, or musicians that wear lots of denim, or bands called “The ________s.” As the latest band to ascend the lofty heights of Mt. Predictable, The Vaccines’ history was signed, sealed and delivered – leaving little hope for their sophomore album.
However much The Vaccines’ debut album borrowed from its denim-clad, chain-smoking forebears, it possessed undeniable distinctions from the endless hordes of English pub bands. Most outstanding of these is singer Justin Young’s voice, which, while not technically brilliant, at least possessed enough yell-power that 36 minutes of power chords wasn’t too boring.
On Come of Age, however, Young’s voice has matured, though not necessarily for the better. His tone is less aggressive, with notes trailing downward rather in the same style as Paul Banks of Interpol. Even such a minute evolution yields a significant departure from the pounding inertia that The Vaccines possessed on What Else.
Unfortunately, a slight dip in emotional tempo is far from the worst of The Vaccines’ crimes. Come of Age‘s lyrics are drenched in self-loathing, which (when executed gracefully and born of legitimate reflection) can produce a shining moment of honesty or vulnerability. Justin Young tries to emulate pretty much all of music’s great sinning narcissists by proudly displaying his love of drink alongside his lust for women, on top of his debilitating social awkwardness (which he thinks YOU, by the way, should find insufferably endearing). Before long, Young’s sizable delivery of self-loathing turns out to be self-serving, and the transparency of the farce is sadly laughable.
All the same, The Vaccines score a small victory on “Bad Mood,” the album’s eighth track. While the song doesn’t deviate far from the aforementioned false cynicism, it at least arrives in a burst of energy that renders Young’s negativity surprisingly convincing.
But sadly, Come of Age is not an album destined to finish on a high note. The penultimate track, “I Wish I Was A Girl,” simply couldn’t be pulled off unless its vocalist sang, looked and lived like David Bowie. It’s among music’s most constipated attempts to praise the opposite gender, and unfortunately for The Vaccines, it’s not an unfitting conclusion. With the claim that they’ve “come of age,” The Vaccines sorely need to realize that it takes more to pay homage to great bands than simply holding a mirror up to them.