The Vaccines return with their second studio album, “Come Of Age” on September 4th.
The thing about titling a second album “Come Of Age” is, well, you are announcing to your audience that there is to be an expectation of maturity when they listen to it. On The Vaccines debut, “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” one couldn’t ignore the energy that album presented for the British band that was enormously buzzed before they even presented the world with a proper album. The whirlwind of publicity was backed up by “What Did You Expect…” when the album delivered in a brash, confident way, leading many to look forward to the next Vaccines release. The Vaccines decided not to waste any time with a follow up suggesting one of two things; 1) they wanted to capitalize on their popularity, or 2) they wanted to move on from their debut and away from the buzz to be considered serious artists. I suppose it could be both, but bands rarely pull off that trick because popularity stems from music being enjoyable to the masses. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, as the Vaccines showed with their debut, but a change in direction can alienate some of the fans that loved them for what they were.
“Come Of Age” seems like a conscious effort by The Vaccines to scale things back a bit. Whereas, “What Did You Expect…” seemed content (or hellbent) slamming on the gas pedal disregarding what other drivers thought of them; “Come Of Age” acknowledges the traffic around them, and while they like to go fast still, The Vaccines now seem to realize that getting to their destination the fastest isn’t always the most important thing. It’s getting there that’s the purpose and there are different routes in which one can take. Yes, The Vaccines have matured.
“Come Of Age” comes out of the gate with its’ cage rattling with the single ‘No Hope’. The song begins with a loud rush of guitar only to become stripped down into a jangly, bouncy indie rock song laced with self deprecating lyrics by lead singer Justin Young, who delivers his vocals in a languishing Dylan-like way not seen on the first album. Second track, ‘I Always Knew’ impresses with rollicking drums and an insistent guitar melody. ‘Teenage Icon’ is a poppy song in the vein of the 50’s artists Young is singing about. ‘All In Vain’ is a standout with it’s pompous acoustic stomp/electric guitar wail, showing maturity can be a little bit fun. ‘Aftershave Ocean’ has a Beatles feel to it…the kind of song that impresses upon more listens.
The second half of the album is a little less exciting than the first. Slow building mid-tempo ‘Weirdo’ is somewhat experimental for the Vaccines, and I’m not sure what to think of it at this point. ‘Bad Mood’ throws caution to the wind and just rocks out. ‘Change of Heart Pt. 2’ sounds like an outtake from the first album, and doesn’t fit as nicely on this album as it would’ve the first, not that it’s a particularly bad song or anything. ‘I Wish I Was A Girl’ is the owner of soulful, provocative guitar work. Album closer, ‘Lonely World’ tugs on the strings, both the ones on instruments and the ones in your heart. It’s Young at his most bare, and while some will commend the band for this track, I am cautious about it being a direction The Vaccines should continue to follow.
After listening to the album in full, I can’t help but notice the reference points for many of these songs go a couple decades further back than the first album. “What Did You Expect…” was stylistically compared to many 80’s legends including The Smiths. Much of “Coming Of Age” appears to be rooted in 50’s and 60’s music, and both decades appear to suit the band well.
The trap I often fall in, or any reviewer, is to compare artists’ own work against themselves. We want to know if artists are progressing or regressing, slam them for not being creative enough, or not being “who they are” and delivering the hits they did the second time around that they did the first. That’s a natural occurrence I suppose, and some people who loved The Vaccines first album are going to wonder where the ‘Wrecking Bar’ song is on this album. There are elements on “Coming Of Age” that were present the first time around for The Vaccines, but this album feels more personal. It feels more like this is the real Vaccines. Whether that’s better than the first album or not, I’m not sure. But I can say without apprehension that “Coming Of Age” is a quality album, and stands on its’ own as such.