The Vaccines – “What Did You Expect from the Vaccines”
This English four piece band composed of Justin Young (Vocals/Guitar), Árni Hjörvar (Bass), Freddie Cowan (Guitar) which is the younger brother of The Horror’s Synth and Bass player Tom Cowan, and Pete Robertson (Drums) from West London released their album “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” in March 14th 2011 through Columbia Records. The sound of the band is not a new form of music but it is a different interpretation of English punk and rock from the 60’s and 70’s borrowing from bands of that era such as The Ramones, Springsteen, Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Stooges as well as a modern band The Strokes. This purely guitar, bass, and drum band holds the raw power that the English guitar once had and captured my attention after their performance earlier this year at Coachella.
The first song in the album is the most punk themed on the album sounding similar to that of The Ramones. “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” has every element that garage-punk bands’ from the 70’s have which is a speedy guitar and equally fast drums only to be followed by a guitar solo. This song consists of only a little more than a minute and is the punk song of the album that is the tribute to punk in the UK. “Norgaard,” is a song which also has the older punk sound but this time sounds a bit more Southern California based, but at the same time still hold true to English punk. The lyrics are also the stereotypical punk lyrics which have fast verses and a fairly repetitive chorus with vocals similar to that in “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra).” The lyrics still have some composure and stay in rhythm with the song perfectly. “Her minds made up, she don’t want to go steady. She’s only seventeen so she’s probably not ready. A-m-a-n-d-a norgaard I saw you on a cover on cross Bay Boulevard.” This song also is the appropriate length being only one minute and thirty six seconds; it allows no guitar solo, but instead a slashing guitar riff to end the song which was made for a Danish model. Wolf Pack also borrows from older punk sounds but is its own creature with a bit of a different instrumental scheme than what is traditionally used in pop-punk with the bass being the main instrument heard and the guitar just accompanying the beat.
Form this they jump to another punk song entitled “If You Wanna.” This song has different characteristics than the previous ones due to its more pop-punk based sound and So Cal influences. Instead of being a tribute styled track, it is one of the first semi genuine Vaccines songs in this album with the same repetitive lyrics like its Cali based predecessors. The vocals for this track jump from lead singer Justin Young singing in a deep voice during the verses to getting louder through the chorus in which he describes getting over a girl by then telling her, “But if you wanna come back it’s alright, it’s alright. It’s alright if you wanna come back. Do you wanna come back? It’s alright, it’s alright. It’s alright if you wanna come back to me”
This point forward the songs fluctuate from calm and tranquil giving different vibes to more upbeat and even some synth based songs like “Wetsuit.” With the singles from this album lacking the synth, we turn to this song, from which the synth is the starting point of the song. The track is similar to The Beatles with the way the scheme of the verses and chorus are set up as well as the steady beat of the instruments. With the song being mediocre and nothing abstract or new as well as another heavily influenced song borrowing from other songs, the lyrics lack any true meaning. Though lyrics are in modern day nearly meaningless, with other songs on this album like “If You Wanna,” and “Post Break-Up Sex,” which have actual meaning behind their lyrics and a narrative, this song “Wetsuit” does not fully line up with this album. Another example of this is “Blow It Up,” which has no meaning and musically is fun and playful for a while, but lacks the depth other tracks in this album created. Finally during “Under Your Thumb,” we have the same thing in which the lyrics are simple and mundane but this time tell a story about a submissive male giving in to, “Eleanor.”
The remainder of the songs on this track are now the authentic and driving songs of the album which define the band as not a shadow of the before mentioned bands but an actual self defined group.
A lone drum and guitar are what start off “Family Friend,” with a bass joining in with soft whispering lyrics. As the song progresses the instruments get a bit louder but maintain the sound they created. With the vocals getting louder and louder the instruments attempt to keep up and end the nearly three minute build up perfectly.
“A Lack of Understanding,” is the first song on the album which differs from the heavy influences of other bands and is the first actually genuine song by the band with great vocals accompanying the catchy rhythm created. It starts off with a bass line and then an eluded yet calm guitar jumping in with the bass drum ending the build and setting the structure of the remainder of the track. The songs drums and guitar make it a great change from the buzzing and loud guitar from the previous tracks as well as the change in lyric structure. There are now more verses and still a catchy chorus but not one which repeats the exuberant amount of times like the before mentioned songs. The lyrics are eerie and place the listener in a situation in which they have all been in. There is, “A Lack of Understanding,” because we don’t know if, “Are you ready, are you ready, are you ready for this? Should I shake your hand or should I give you a kiss? Is this everything you always hoped it would be? We’ll see…”
Following the scheme and structure of “A Lack of Understanding,” we have the same instrument scheme with no one instrument surpassing the other in “Post Break-Up Sex.” We have one exception with the guitar for a small solo and the Surfer California riffs during the chorus. The lyrics are not that impressive but drive the narrative perfectly in which some people can relate with. The chorus is repetitive but there is a meaning behind it, in which we repeat, “What did you expect from post break-up sex.” This song is calm and is my favorite track in the album because the song in its entirety is a relatable and a catchy subject like, “If You Wanna,” but is an original song by The Vaccines. It talks about having post break-up sex and being vulnerable as well as open to just having guilty emotions and a heavy heart. “Leave it ’till the guilt consumes. Fucking in the nearest room. All our friends were unaware, most had just passed out downstairs. To think I’d hoped you’d be ok, no I can’t think of what to say”
The final track which is the single that hit the waves and made The Vaccines amongst the favorites of this year is “All in White.” This track starts off with a heavy bass line and intense but tranquil lyrics which sound perfect with the vocals. The build in this song is amazing and gives the listener a profound and deep immersion. The song builds in a certain way and then the changes completely once it hits the chorus. This may seem a bit odd but makes this song flow perfectly and makes this track deserving of being the single of this album. The drums and bass work in harmony while the rhythm guitar is barely made out and the lead guitar does peeks during the first verse and chorus. Once we pass to the second chorus the guitars stay steady and the remainder of the instruments work in unison to deliver an amazing and very distinct and unique sound. This song is the apex of the album with the guitars reverb working fluidly and making the lyrics deliverable. Though the lyrics have no one clear message they make sense and are open to interpretation. “I’ve known you all my life. I was always wrong, you all in white”
With some help from Albert Hammond Jr. from The Strokes, The Vaccines have recently put out a song entitled “Tiger Blood,” which is not found on the album. The song is up-beat and gives off the California vibe and is easily seen being heavily influenced by The Strokes. The lyrics structure is similar to that of a So Cal band with a small chorus and a lot of verses. The song sounds like a song created by The Vaccines until we reach the chorus. The chorus is loud and pushes the singer to nearly have to scream over the drums and guitar. Lyrically it tells a story about rage and frustration towards a person, “You fucked it up and thought I’d understand but I don’t like what you are saying off hand.” The guitar finally has a semi solo in it and just goes through riffs like a song by The Strokes would like “Take It or Leave It.” This is a perfect immersion of two great minds to compose an excellent two minute song.