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The Vaccines-English Graffiti

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For the second time in a week I’m sitting here listening to music by artists I genuinely like and wondering if maybe I’m just stupid. A few days ago it was Brandon Flowers sophomore solo effort that was defying my belief in his talents, and now the third full-length from The Vaccines is giving me equal doubts. They are trying something different from the brilliant What Would You Expect From The Vaccines? and the kind of similar but not quite as good Come Of Age, so I at least give them credit for that.

However, the music on this latest album (streaming now on NPR and in stores May 25) just doesn’t work very well, I think the opportunity is there for some of these songs to be really good live, but on record they’re a bit lifeless. If Duran Duran and Gang Of Four had started a supergroup in the mid-80’s, and then The Black Keys became a cover band playing that supergroup’s hits, you might get something like this mess. Freddie Cowan’s guitar is in constant shimmer mode with the strings pulsating waves and echoes all over the place. It’s a forced sort of psychedelic take completely unnecessary for the songs. Then, right in the middle of “Radio Bikini” he unleashes this unexpected Jack White-style solo that provides a silver lining in an otherwise boring tune.

Everyone’s allowed to lay an egg every once in a while. The Vaccines have provided me with enough good times that I’m not ready to write them off after not liking one album. I’d definitely see them in concert again to see if these songs have a little more life instead of sounding like late-era Matchbox Twenty demos. Fingers crossed that they do.

If there is a bright side here, it’s that the album is only 34 minutes long. That means after a half hour you can go back to listening to “Post Break-Up Sex” or “Wetsuit” and forget this ever happened.

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