They haven’t even been playing together a year, and the London indie outfit have had an astounding beginning to their career. First single ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was named as Q magazine’s song of the day, ‘Post-Break Up Sex’ entered into the UK charts at a rather respectable 37, they were shortlisted as MTV’s best new band, and were nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2011. In short, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is quite simply, the most anticipated album for early 2011.
But does it live up to the showers of praise that have rained and poured on the 5-piece?
Well, it opens with a roundhouse kick to the ears, a full 1 minute 24 seconds of ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’, the release that hailed the return of the guitar band. And damn, weren’t the critics right. In a scene drenched with plonky folk melodies and synth, it’s refreshing to see a band look into the past without disdain, embracing their roots as opposed to hatcheting it into pieces. This translates into unashamed simplicity, unrelenting reliance on the guitar to propel a melody, and bloody sharp song writing. What could be construed as laziness or derivation comes across as new, exciting and clean, demonstrating that contemporary music does not have to incorporate bizarre musical concoctions, or weave twelve melodies together to make them credible.
But what is perhaps more outstanding about this album is the seamless fusion between dark and light. There are moments where The Vaccines beg you to don your flip-flops and frolic in the sand, and others where they make you want to tear your own heart out. And somehow as an album this works, because that’s life.
The fact that this record is an emotional roller coaster makes it impossible to pick out highlights. From one song to the next, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? makes sense, making this an album that deserves a listen from start to finish – no shuffle please.
But amongst every starry sky there are stars that shine the brightest, and these come in the form of ‘Blow it up’ and ‘Norgaard’. The former is an odd choice, given its grainy strange beginning and a riff that does not instantly endear you to it. But with vocals that are a bit White Lies-esque, and amazing use of repetition, it is definitely a strong candidate for single number 4. Although it may have the potential to have you tearing your hair out, that’s not before it’s wormed its way firmly into your brain to take up residence for quite some time. ‘Norgaard’ on the other hand is instantly likeable – my first reaction was literally ‘Oh wow. Look at that opening’. It’s summer in a bottle, and if you don’t dance during this song, you are simply dead inside. Does it really matter that it revolves around about three chords? No it bloody well doesn’t. It’s innocent, cheery and absolutely fantastic. It’s only 1 minute 38, but so much summer was crammed into that short space of time that ‘Norgaard’ is almost certainly my favourite track.
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is a truly outstanding debut from the quintet, one which dips and soars in equal measure. The perfect soundtrack to your spring (or summer, or autumn, or winter).
Good: A sterling album from start to finish – wonderfully put together and beautifully simple
Bad: Maybe (just maybe) some tracks would be better just a little bit longer…?
Tracks to Download: ‘All in White’, ‘Wetsuit’ and ‘Under the Thumb’