The Vaccines – English Graffiti
What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? This title of The Vaccines’ first album seems more appropriate in describing their eagerly anticipated third, English Graffiti. If you expected to hear The Vaccines’ typical short but sweet, guitar heavy, irresistibly catchy and lyrically simple indie songs, then in part you will be satisfied.
English Graffiti opens with ‘Handsome’, typically Vaccines: short, punchy and incredibly catchy. We are on similarly safe ground with ‘20/20’, with Justin Young assuring the unlucky girl that he is “through thinkin’ bout you” on the chorus. The lyrics are all underpinned by a careering guitar riff which carries along the melody in true Vaccines style.
By this point in the album, nothing is really amiss, The Vaccines still sound like a 17 year old American boy band who’ve formed in their parents’ garage. However, single ‘Dream Lover’ sees the band reaching to new heights, or at least sideways to explore new dimensions of their sound. A meaty guitar riff runs through the song but never overpowers Justin Young’s vocals of elaborate light and shade. The cosmic music video for the song shows the band don’t take themselves too seriously, but are still trying to branch out from the sound of their last two albums.
Indeed on ‘Minimal Affection’ The Vaccines have really written a pop song, with a light and bouncy melody which Young’s voice hops and skips around on. As with ‘Dream Lover’ the song sounds from another planet, with Young asking, “Anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone? Is there anyone there?” You can even imagine the band on an 70’s set of Top of the Pops with mist rolling round their flared ankles as a warm up for Ziggy Stardust.
Stranger things are to follow on ‘(All Afternoon) in Love’, a reflective moment of the album. Young realises he has “fallen in love” and drives home his point in the chorus by repeating it about 10 times. This may be sweet and endearing to some, but seems far too soppy even from the low points of ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ and ‘All in White’ from their first album. Indeed, the cheesy Spanish guitar break on ‘(All Afternoon)…’ shows The Vaccines are aware of this change to their sound but are running with it.
So The Vaccines really have taken a turn towards pop and are well aware of what they are doing. ‘Denial’ is a particularly strong point of the album and lies somewhere between the normality of ‘Handsome’ and the frankly bizarre ‘(All Afternoon)…’. I’m still unsure what to make of English Graffiti and think this will be the case for most people. At times strange but at times brilliant, it is definitely an album to listen to with an open mind and no expectations.