thu 21/02/2019

CD: The Vaccines - English Graffiti | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Vaccines - English Graffiti

CD: The Vaccines - English Graffiti

A change of direction sees the indie rockers headed for the charts, but at what cost?

The Vaccines: prevention's not better than The Cure

Having come of age with their second LP, The Vaccines had developed a sound that, though borrowed, they wore with confidence. This, their third album, sees them wilfully discard it, which is, if nothing else, quite the surprise.

If you’re a fan, "Handsome", "20/20" and "Radio Bikini" are the tracks that will be going on the playlist, as they’re the only ones that sound remotely like the Vaccines of old. Even then, there’s something distinctly (and newly) infantile about them. “Handsome” is McBusted playing the hits of The Jesus and Mary Chain, with the Reid brothers’ shiftless ennui replaced with a toddler's tartrazine rush. Meanwhile, on “20/20”, the Ramones comparisons will, I’m afraid, be tossed aside in favour of hat-tips to Aussie indie also-rans Ratcat.

The change of direction that marks the rest of this collection is aimed at mass-market radio playlists and stadia, something most clearly reflected in “Dream Lover”. It starts promisingly enough, with a simple guitar line introducing a pleasing mid-paced chug, but then the chorus hits and it’s like receiving very bad news out of the blue. For a moment there’s a huge disconnect while you take in the sudden shift, then the awful realisation that what you’re hearing is horrible. If the chorus ("When I shut my eyes, I got another dreeeeeeeeeam lover”) was supposed to channel the screaming, arse-end of mid-Eighties US ponce-rock, it’s job done I’d say. “Give Me a Sign” incidentally, could easily be an outtake from the last One Direction album. Not judging, just stating.

Elsewhere, the Vaccines 2.0 never quite manage to be more than the sum of their ingredients. Take “Want U So Bad” for example. It’s a good song, one that, in truth, I like an awful lot, but that’s because it gives me a real sense of what Radiohead would sound like covering the Cure playing an Echo and the Bunnymen song.

Basically, English Graffiti feels like an artistic step backwards for a band who’d been so propulsive and driving. Sure, it’ll sell a gazillion and open up new markets, and that’s fine – but it ain’t rock’ ‘n’ roll.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Handsome"

English Graffiti feels like an artistic step backwards for a band who’d been so propulsive and driving

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