Release Date: Mar 30, 2018
Record label: Columbia
“I started to feel being timeless isn’t a good thing,” Justin Young once explained The Vaccines’ sharp turn away from three-chord indie-rock on ‘English Graffiti’. Instead, their third album sounded how people in the ’80s imagined the future - gleaming, metallic and robotic. It could easily have soundtracked a sci-fi movie.
'Combat Sports' has been a battle for The Vaccines: against internal strife - drummer Pete Robertson has departed since 2015's third album 'English Graffiti' and Justin Young and guitarist Freddie Cowan were punching each other's faces in on the last day of recording; against "health and lifestyle issues" (the new 'nervous exhaustion'?) because, y'know, too much squash and life drawing can really play havoc with a band; b ut most of all, against irrelevance. Si gns had been emerging since their immense 2011 debut 'What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?' - an energised exercise in neo-nostalgia that felt like being kicked in the groin by Frankie Valli - that The Vaccines were succumbing to the Bastille Virus, an insidious infection of guitar music by flagrant mainstream pop that, in the very worst cases, makes facile boybands believe they're the new fucking Strokes. In zombie-movie terms, their smoother, synthier moments were like the part where a heroic resistance leader uncovers a festering bite mark and starts spitting blood.
Back in 2010, The Vaccines were the darlings of the British rock press; the latest in a long, erratic line of potential "Saviors of Rock and Roll. " Theirs was the kind of white hot rise that could never last: a quick takeover of their easily wooed home turf, built on impossible expectations and wishful thinking. It was a massive buildup that paid off for a while (their second album Come Of Age went to #1 in their native U.
The Vaccines' fourth album Combat Sports reaffirms their identity as a guitar band. Their over-hyped debut What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? led to them being absurdly touted as the "saviours of rock ‘n’ roll" but was actually rather good, while their next work, the equally ironically titled Come of Age, confirmed their status as one of the diminishing breed of guitar-based groups with a mainstream appeal. Then came an unexpected flirtation with boyband pop (with front man Justin Young collaborating on songs with One Direction) and their synth-saturated third album English Graffiti signalling a change of tack.
'I see The Vaccines have released their song again,' Guardian deputy music editor Laura Snapes tweeted when the British band released new track 'I Can't Quit' in early January. She's not wrong. The track - clocking in at just under three minutes, as most Vaccines songs do - is emblematic of the indie-pop guitar-based music they are so famed for, starting with their 2011 debut release What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?.