Released March 20th 2011. Review published 22nd March 2011.
Look, I’m the kind of guy who believes that the word cool was created by guys in marketing who realised that they could sell more of any old shit that they wanted us to, provided we had that idiomatic fuck-you personality flaw that makes us all look down on each other. Cool should be our own little paths to idiosyncracy, but instead its Henry Winkler, a black-and-whitey of James Dean, or if you’re really unlucky the contents of someone’s brown paper shopping bag; Frankly, cool is the dung heap of our lack of self esteem.
The Vaccines are a four piece rock and roll band from London who don’t look cool; their photos convey the image of young Harvard students waiting for their next bursary cheque to cash. They are often compared to The Strokes (Like, cool, at least in the beginning) or sometimes even The Killers (Hey, so uncool) and have in the few short months since their formation caused desperate, “Proper” music journalists to anoint them as the saviours of everything musical that doesn’t feature Autotune.
Assumptively this hysteria would appear to stem from two sources, both of which have a strong basis in fact. The first is that 99.99% of music journalists have no understanding of what makes the mind of an eleven year old girl tick, and hence no insight into why they don’t like bands, or guitars, or songs not about love, and hence the world of pop. Neither do I, and further exploration of the topic seems therefore utterly futile. The second is that on What Did You Expect From…The Vaccines have created a sound of such ridiculous perfection as to actually justify most of the desperate, chain clanking hype that’s surrounded them since the release their demo If You Wanna in August of 2010.
In the flesh, What Did You Expect From is a polyglot of cool, provided you obsess over things like Phil Spector, The Ramones, The Jesus & Mary Chain and a thousand other pasty-faced rock desperadoes from the last four decades of Ray-Ban clad history. So much so in fact that all of these icons are watching over the eighty four second opener Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) a song in a hurry to establish singer Justin Young’s throwaway, drawling nonchalance, one rarely in evidence during his turn as a neo-folkie in Jay Jay Pistolet.
It feels like we’ve been waiting for this less-is-more aesthetic for years; whilst White Lies and Delphic liked to cloister all their synth pop yearnings in po-faced home counties Gothery, The Vaccines want to fuck to forget us (On the less than redemptive Post Break-up Sex) or chase teen size zero models up and down the catwalk (Via the libido-soaked Norgaard). The latter is a minute and fourty-five seconds of ecstatic, chiming surf-pop frizz which probably echoes how long the act of fumbling consummation would take, but in its wide eyed simplicity lay the roots of why for a few months we believed that The View were going to change the world.
This trio would make up the normal three decent songs that a debut album critically described as “Game changing” normally possesses, but instead there are half a dozen other trinkets to admire. If You Wanna sees the band at their most Strokes-like, tambourines and bass rumbling with Brooklyn-esque presence and a blankness which is a rarely conveyed gift. Wetsuit sugars more post-punk, drum cascades undulating under Young’s plea for the subject to “Do me wrong, do me wrong” which will have you dying to be abused in his place.
As well there are the places which you sense Brandon Flowers is taking notes furiously, along quite possibly with Rab Allan. A Lack of Understanding rolls out a lustrous, gargantuan chorus surely destined for white van immortality this summer, whilst Wolfpack harnesses the rockabilly excesses of Morrissey and produces something vitally twenty-first century from the old man’s fifties grist. Both are stunningly effective and direct, as Young has frequently stated is the quartet’s raison d’etre for songwriting. The other thing I failed to mention about cool is that as soon as anything becomes the property of someone else on your street, its cache inevitably erodes, rendering what you had for yourself worthless. For The Vaccines, the cocktail of naiveté & cute; and knowing that constitutes What Did You Expect From…has sealed this fate, whether it was designed or not. But what a way to go.