Release Date: May 31, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Sorry [a]The Vaccines[/a], can we start over? I think we got off on the wrong foot. For a start there was all this stuff about you being posher than a royal wedding. Supposedly guitarist Freddie Cowan is so toffee-nosed he’s 14th in line to the throne and gets carried to gigs on a sedan chair. And then there’s the fact that you have zero offstage charisma.
Let’s take stock. A lot of people will hail this album is a poor Ramones imitation, but before you do remember that songs like Wreckin’ Bar and Post Break-Up Sex are pretty excellent. We can all admit that can’t we? Given this band’s press, it’s because we fear that What Did You… will be gargantuanly average that it’s just so tempting to decide that it is – and many are very guilty of that already.
Late last summer, months before the Vaccines had gone on to grace the front of the NME above a cover line heralding "The Return of the Great British Guitar Band," the magazine's website was already reporting concerns about the London band getting over-hyped. After the feverish debate that quickly ensued in the UK music press, such talk has come to sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Among the Vaccines' detractors, meanwhile, hardly a review deadline goes by without some pun on the quartet's debut album title, What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? The Vaccines, much to their credit, are savvier about expectations than their champions and critics alike.
It's a mark of how fast music moves these days that the backlash seems to arrive almost before the band does. No sooner had the Vaccines' media drum roll begun – one journalist proclaimed them "the band that will kickstart a new era" – than it got drowned out by raspberries, many of them revolving around bassist Freddie Cowan's family background: an old broadsheet article surfaced detailing the four-bedroom South Kensington apartment his mother had apparently gifted him as "a party flat". Much heated debate about privileged musicians followed, allowing another airing of the famous toffs-can't-rock argument, previously big with noted thinker Alan McGee and the drunker wing of Oasis's fanbase.
The Vaccines suffer the slings and arrows of those who consider the well-heeled rockers fake indie, a criticism that has dogged bands long before the Strokes, who do seem to have been a pivotal group in this London band’s life. Still, those critics do have a point: the Vaccines' debut, titled What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? with a self-satisfied shrug, does bear the air of studied affectation, the bandmembers lazily splicing their favorite record collection together into a cool droning pulse. It’s plainly lifestyle music for Young Turks who need a soundtrack for their disengagement yet are too worried to play something that alienates for fear that they just may not get laid.
As the latest in a tortuously long line of NME darlings, the Vaccines had already been chewed up and spat out by the British press by the time their debut album had hit shelves. No sooner was the London quartet touted as the torchbearers for a renaissance of guitar-driven indie music than they were the subject of a torrential backlash: Some took exception to their moneyed background, others (rightfully) to the lack of dynamism in their singles. Given that “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” peaked at an embarrassingly modest #157 on Her Majesty’s singles charts, and that “Post Break-Up Sex” barely broke the Top 40 despite a whirlwind of hype from both NME and the BBC, perhaps the record-buying public isn’t ready for another guitar-driven revolution? Or, rather, are the Vaccines just another act to be catalogued alongside similarly disappointing false prophets like Cold War Kids and the Datsuns? Either way, it’s unfair to pin such aggressive criticism on the band itself.
Hmm, good question. What DID we expect from The Vaccines? Now, on the cover of this week’s NME, the last man standing of weekly music mags has mocked up a sort of Pennie Smith-style monochrome photo of the band peering out from a neon pink header that proclaims ‘Never Mind the Hype, here’s… The Vaccines’. Looking at that, you would probably be forgiven for expecting the The Vaccines and everything issuing from them to be irredeemably terrible.
Here’s what to expect from The Vaccines‘ debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?: a modern-day Ramones sound mixed with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and an attitude reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys. While many tracks are short in length (the first single, “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”, clocks in at only 1:24), the whole album hits like a punch to the face – only you’ll ask for another. The London rockers will be much obliged to help you out there.
A bold first step from tipped rockers, but it’s the stumbles that impress the most. Camilla Pia 2011 With the cocksure album title, incredibly well received debut tracks, and, we would guess, many declarations of love off the back of the moody jilted lover stares they so expertly delivered in their Post Break-Up Sex video, you can see why people might be just a little suspicious (but mainly jealous) of The Vaccines. But it’s not all smooth moves and knocked-out-in-their-sleep tunes for the four-piece, as this first full-length proves.