Early last year The Vaccines burst onto the scene and exploded in my eardrums with their debut record What Did You Expect From The Vaccines. They were nominated for the Mercury Prize (which I thought they deserved to win), sold a ton of records, and travelled the world. It wasn’t all sunny days, though. The band had to miss a run of shows so that singer Justin Young could have surgery for the third time to repair his damaged vocal chords. They began work on their second album while out on the road, and I was very curious to see how they would follow up one of the way works so far this decade.
Well, Santa Claus showed up early at my apartment when I found myself looking at my iTunes playlist and saw that The Vaccines Come Of Age was sitting there waiting for me to push play. The official release date is September 4th here in the states. I had some questions and concerns heading in: would they mix up their sound so it isn’t just a rehash of their previous effort? Was the band capable of making something even better? And mostly, how would Mr. Young’s surgeries affect his singing.
To answer that last one, it made him stronger. He sounds like a different guy on the new record. More confident and willing to try things that he couldn’t/wouldn’t before. His range is more broad and his enunciation is better. The change is apparent right at the top on the single “No Hope.” There’s a playfulness to his delivery that wasn’t apparent on What Did You Expect.
The new record has some sonic resemblance to their last, mostly in the drum lines laid down by Pete Robertson. This is a much more American sounding record, like they spent a lot of time listening to mixes of Sun Studios recordings and AM radio from the 70’s. I feel like there’s a lot of Johnny Cash in their attitude on this one, which I love. They allow everyone in the band a bit more freedom as well, which makes for some great guitar work from Freddie Cowan.
Lyrically, Come Of Age is head and shoulders above WDYE. Their songwriting maturation is obvious from the very opening line “I could bore you with the truth/about an uneventful youth, or you could get that rap from someone else. I could make an observation/if you want the voice of a generation/but I’m too self-absorbed to give it clout.” They also show that they’ve grown up on the song “Weirdo.” Young stays mainly in his lower register as he goes through all of his character flaws while asking a woman to love him. The point being everyone is messed up in their own way and that shouldn’t be an obstacle for two people to be together.
Amazingly, I think Come Of Age is a step forward for The Vaccines. So many bands have a hard time with their second record, but these guys have really brought their best effort and succeeded in making an album that exceeds expectations. I can’t wait for them to go on tour in the US again. I saw them almost a year ago to the day at Schubas for a post-Lolla show, and their presence on stage is incredible. They’re probably one of the best live bands I’ve seen in the past few years.