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Having seen the Vaccines live a couple of time, we know just what a stomping band they can be at their best. Even I danced; ignoring the youngsters' stares as my belly continued on a wobble or three of its own volition even after I had stopped jigging around. Undignified yes; fun undoubtedly.
So it was that we excitedly rushed out to buy the Vaccines latest album, "Come of Age". My beloved and I have a mixed view on the album, and unfortunately I'm the one that's a little disappointed.
The Vaccines are the great hope of those of us that like guitar bands and a bit of new wave. Perhaps I was over anticipating greatness whereas in fact I have to accept the Vaccines are always going to be a bit patchy, albeit who definitely have their moments.
Perhaps my beloved is easier to please; she likes to sing mindlessly to any catchy tune; as long as it bounces along she's happy. I guess many folks are similar, in which case you will probably enjoy much of "Come of Age". Meanwhile, I always look for something a little more meaningful. I like a lot of thrash and bounce but it needs to have standards.
The other slightly frustrating thing about "Come of Age" is that there is little of the personality of the band within. Rather than hear the influences of the band going back to the 60s and 70s, I hear the original bands themselves. It seems as though the Vaccines are Chameleons who are not a band capable of carving their own niche creating their own sound by using what has gone before as a backdrop only.
The best outcome of "Come of Age" is finding out just how much lead singer Justin's vocals have improved since the first album, "What Did You Expect from the Vaccines" where in 40 minutes he slid through every note known to man never quite hitting one on the nail. After unsurprising voice troubles, Justin has had proper vocal training in the intervening period and it shows in spades. Weakest vocally by far on "Come of Age" is the track "Lonely World". While I might have enjoyed its lush and relaxed style, those strangled vowels and sliding grating bawled notes just put me on edge, and itching for the microphone to see if I could do it better (answer: yes).
"Come of Age" begins happily and bouncily enough with the current "hit" No Hope. It's no surprise that the lead singer of the Vaccines heard his own song on the radio some months after he recorded it and mistook it for a track by The Stokes. As I adore The Strokes that's a good thing. "No Hope" actually also sounds rather like the hybrid son of Dylan and the Velvet Underground with a good bouncy back beat.
"Weirdo" is a very good understated song that bucks the "slow start then bouncy chorus" trend of so many songs out there these days. "Weirdo" is a rather deep sounding track and one I can imagine the late great John Peel championing. "Change of Heart" sounds like it may have come from the first album and is pleasant enough.
Another track I like is the rather psychedelic tinged "Aftershave Ocean", complete with twangy guitar solo. It's probably the track after "No Hope" that I'd like to hear the band perform live as I'm sure it would have a much darker and gutsy edge.
Two tracks that appear on the "Deluxe" version of the album are "Run Away" which has a Ray Davies vibe written all over it and like the best of his tracks is pure pop. It's fairly short but a fine addition to the album. "Misbehaviour" has something of a Pistols swagger and closes "Come of Age" "Deluxe" on something of a high.
While there are some good and OK tracks, there are also some rather stagnant ones on "Come of Age". "I Always Knew" the second track on the album is a rather curious beast, reminding of a late 1970s cover of an earlier rock and roll song complete with trembling faux Elvis vocals and a "Telstar" jangling guitar. It's OK, but the irrelevant chorus and associated "ooohhhh" bits guaranteed to get the audience singing, is just frankly a bit too predictable and easy.
"All in Vain" meanwhile has a kind of country "Crocodile Shoes" vibe to it; lots of echo and strumming lazy guitar work. "All in Vain" might be perfect toe tapping material for my beloved but is a little light on substance for my taste.
"Ghost Town" meanwhile sounds like a bit of filler and actually although it's short, does jar and break up the feel of the album a little. In sound it might have been one of the early rough demos first produced by the band and tarted up to fill a gap. "Wish I was a Girl" is another fairly meaningless song that repeats a lot of the same lyrics and jigs along with little consequence.
"Teenage Icon" is probably another hit for the Vaccines, and again seems very late 1970's in feel. Anyone over 40 remember Power Pop? While I like the guitar and strong vocal, it seems strange in 2012 to name check Frankie Avalon.
"Bad Mood" is something of a Billy Idol rock and roll pastiche; although it struggles to completely take off. Again, I'm sure it would perform much better live.
To sum up, there are some very good songs on the Vaccines "Come of Age" that I'm sure will happily join the roster of songs the band belt out live to great effect. However, there are a few lazy stinker tracks in "Come of Age" too. Perhaps I'm old fashioned in expecting an album to have a coherent and consistent "feel", but this album is one for the cherry picker to download the best songs and leave the dross.
Perhaps it's time for me to "Come of Age" with changing my music buying habits, but I can't help feeling just a little short changed by the inconsistent feel of the album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 No Hope
2 I Always Knew
3 Teenage Icon
4 All In Vain
5 Ghost Town
6 Aftershave Ocean
8 Bad Mood
9 Change Of Heart pt.2.
10 I Wish I Was A Girl
11 Lonely World
12 Runaway (Bonus Track)
13 Possessive (Bonus Track)
14 Misbehaviour (Bonus Track)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 No Hope (Live In Brighton)
2 Wreckin? Bar (Ra Ra Ra) (Live In Brighton)
3 Tiger Blood (Live In Brighton)
4 A Lack Of Understanding (Live In Brighton)
5 Wetsuit (Live In Brighton)
6 Teenage Icon (Live In Brighton)
7 Under Your Thumb (Live In Brighton)
8 Post Break - Up Sex (Live In Brighton)
9 All In White (Live In Brighton)
10 Wolf Pack (Live In Brighton)
11 Weirdo (Live In Brighton)
12 Blow It Up (Live In Brighton)
13 Bad Mood (Live In Brighton)
14 If You Wanna (Live In Brighton)
15 Family Friend (Live In Brighton)
16 Why Should I Love You (Live In Brighton)
17 Norgaard (Live In Brighton)