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The Vaccines

Gate-crashing GLASVEGAS’s fantasy-50s party in their TORNADOS-via-SPECTOR-styled indie twang, West London’s The VACCINES were darlings for a fresh decade of emerging NME-endorsed combos. Saddled almost immediately as JESUS AND MARY CHAIN or STROKES wannabes, the band were chasing an audience geared to the lucrative festival scene, while encompassing music to reach out to redundant retro rockers. While one knows it’ll be almost impossible to crack the 1D-fixated/X-Factor-saturated American market, home-wise, the award-winning quartet have injected a bit of life into an otherwise pop-riddled chart.
Formed in 2009, only frontman Justin Young (vocals/guitar) had a bit of experience behind him as lone ranger, JAY JAY PISTOLET, while lead guitarist Freddie Cowan had played understudy for some time, watching big brother Tom Cowan in The HORRORS. JJP released two singles in 2008 (`We Are Free’ and `Happy Birthday You’) for Chess and Stiff Records respectively; but expect to pay OTT prices for either.
Together with drummer Pete Robertson and bassist/vocalist Arni Arnason/Hjorvar, The VACCINES surfaced from their proverbial bunker, showcasing tracks – including YouTube upload fave, `If You Wanna’ – at inaugural gig in Leicester. Making TV history as the first act ever to appear on Later With Jools Holland without even a single to their name (`Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was in the can and scheduled for November 2010), the buzz and lather toward The VACCINES was astonishing. In such a short space of time (and one could say the same for the 1 ½ minute single), they’d turned from indie pretenders to a group signed to Columbia Records on the verge of superstardom.
Despite only being shipped out on 7” formats, subsequent spawns `Post Break-Up Sex’ and the aforementioned `If You Wanna’ were minor hits, although the focus was mainly on parent set, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM THE VACCINES? (2011) {*7}. `Wetsuit’, `Under Your Thumb’ and the INTERPOL-fuelled `All In White’, had an anthemic element toward their accentuated and literate hooks, although the need to go from moribund-to-crescendo for sonic-soundtrack finale piece, `Family Friend’, was a tad adventurous.
Unexpected, was a sophomore set so soon.
COME OF AGE (2012) {*7} swaggered and swept into pole position and, while it catered for disaffected LIBERTINES fans awaiting another BABYSHAMBLES, the “Raw-hide”-meets-“Bobby Sox” appeal of `I Always Knew’ and the 50s crooner name-check on `Teenage Icon’ (a Top 40 squeeze), was indeed on a paradoxical Back To The Future level. But for hit `No Hope’, the DUANE EDDY-esque `Weirdo’ and the raucous RAMONES-rallying rawker, `Bad Mood’ (plus the do ya/do ya/do ya `Change Of Heart Pt.2’), this set might well have been filed under pop – nothing that would hurt the band in the short term.
With a slight change of tempo, The VACCINES went through a bloodletting musical transfusion for their third set, the Dave Fridmann-produced ENGLISH GRAFFITI (2015) {*8}. Intended to be so genre-defining as to sound terrible in 10 years time, as paraphrased by the band to the NME, the eclectic quartet were at least consistent in their verbal volleys. Voluble, stomping and, as ever, pretentious, revved-up (very `If You Wanna’) opening salvo `Handsome’ and follow-on track/single `Dream Lover’ (very ARCTIC MONKEYS’ `Do I Wanna Know?’) were well anticipated, while a continuation of their flaccid soft side arrived `(All Afternoon) In Love’, `Want You So Bad’, `Maybe I Can Hold You’ and `Give Me A Sign’. Britpop/disco fever raised its not-too-ugly head on `Minimal Affection’ (or West Coast through `Denial’), but it wouldn’t be The VACCINES without a bit of head-swirling surf-punk-psychobilly by way of `20/20’ and the buoyant `Radio Bikini’.
Turning 30 years of age had its highs and lows for complacent rock stars in a fickle pop world awaiting the next big thing; but that was nothing to do with on-tour keyboardist Timothy Lanham being upgraded; whilst Yoann Intonti replaced Robertson. The effervescent VACCINES needn’t have fretted too much in the aftermath of spring 2018’s COMBAT SPORTS {*7}; well at least from their loyal fans who shelled out for this Top 5 proposition; other buyers felt a little short-changed concerning the total running time of 32 minutes – a mini-LP in old currency. Kick-starting the banging set in typical rambunctious aplomb was `Put It On A T-Shirt’ and `I Can’t Quit’; the 5-piece also injected a bit of disco and/or AOR on `Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ and `Take It Easy’.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2013-Apr2018

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