Little over a year after forming, The Vaccines released one of the most commercially successful alternative albums of the following year and the indie soundtrack of a summer. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is reductive rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.
The meteoric rise of the London-based band came off the back of the success of their top 40 charting single, ‘Post Break-up Sex’. The lyrics are full of the kind of resentment that have inspired some of the greatest music of the last fifty years, with whining guitars that add to an impression of antagonism. It’s a theme which reverberates across much of the album that would soon follow. In fact, the music on this LP is a real throwback to the rock ‘n’ roll era of the 1950s.
If there were to be one song that embodies that period then it must surely be ‘Nørgaard’. I won’t claim that it is a song of any great substance, but unlike so much modern music it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a short, sharp rollercoaster of a song. The “A-M-A-N-D-A Nørgaard” refrain echoes that of Buddy Holly’s “Pa-he-ggy Sue” and the string-busting guitar line is an aural assault which makes the song an earworm on the first listen. This and opening track ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ are both well short of the three minute mark, like so many of the great rock ‘n’ roll classics. ‘Nørgaard’ serves as a kick of energy as pace of the album begins to slow.
Nonetheless, in the slow burners lie some of the best moments in post-2010 indie music. ‘Wetsuit’ takes the form of an impassioned ballad with the thundering presence of Pete Robertson’s bass drum providing a heartbeat to the song. As the lyrics cry, “Do me wrong, do me wrong, do me wrong” one can’t help but find a connection to the misjudged desires that are lamented in ‘Post Break-up Sex’. ‘All In White’ is a similar composition which serves as a remorseful reflection on the ill-judged desires touted in ‘Wetsuit’. It’s not all doom and gloom though. The staccato sound of ‘If You Wanna’ allows for an uplifting, euphoric chorus. The result is a song which sounds like it might have been produced if Kurt Kobain and Paul McCartney had spent a day locked in a studio together.
The penultimate track, ‘Wolf Pack’ is my personal favourite. You can run to it, read a book whilst listening to it or dance to it in one of Southampton’s discotheque establishments. The lyrics tell of the very adventure, misadventure of my post-GCSEs summer of freedom to which What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? formed the soundtrack. Upon release, some critics were scathing and referred to The Vaccines as little more than a hype band. Four years later they have a no.1 album under their belt, 2012’s Come of Age, and are on the verge of releasing their third studio album English Graffiti. I guess the critics don’t get it right every time. Now, does anyone know where I can find the (ra, ra, ra, ra) Wreckin’ Bar?
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? was released on 11th March 2011 via Columbia Records.