“English Graffitti” The Vaccines

The Vaccines

English Graffiti Album Review

Columbia Records

Released May 25, 2015

Genre: Indie Rock, Garage Rock, Post-Punk Revival

When The Vaccines burst onto the scene in 2011 with their remarkably strong debut studio album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, they were a huge breath of fresh air, just what indie rock needed. Only a year later came their follow up, Come of Age. It wasn’t quite on the level of their first, but Come of Age was an interesting exploration of where The Vaccines could possibly go in the future. It worked. After three years of waiting, we finally have their third studio piece in the form of English Graffiti. While the three years certainly have not gone to waste, it’s difficult to not be slightly disappointed by this record. English Graffiti is a solid collection of music with some real beauty, but the lack of risks taken force the listener to feel as though mainstream success might mean a little more to The Vaccines than the true expansion of talent. *DISCLAIMER: I’m reviewing the Deluxe version of the album, so I’ll avoid writing up a track by track summary this time, opting instead for a general overview.*

An overwhelming amount of English Graffiti is filled with straightforward, ultimately fine rock songs. Some of these feel inspired and genuine, but, to be honest, others appear to be filler. “Give Me a Sign” should be an unoriginal, bland, mid 80s sounding piece, but I actually f**king loved it. Everything about “Give Me a Sign” is familiar, but it’s nostalgic fun. “20/20” is also pretty breezy, and it features some really cool guitar work, but I’ve already forgotten about it otherwise. “Miracle” is most obviously filler. It’s just not anywhere near the best The Vaccines have to offer. “Handsome,” which is our introduction to the record, hovers right in between success and failure. It is undeniably shallow, but it’s also easy to listen to and right to the point.

English Graffiti succeeds most when The Vaccines, who guessed it, are enjoying themselves! Buried throughout the record, in between the songs that could easily be mistaken for songs by any other indie band, are so many cool gems (Look, I hate calling something a gem, too. It just fits here.). Songs like “Dream Lover” and “Minimal Affection” don’t have a shot at Top 40 radio play, but they’re not designed for that. Hell, “Minimal Affection” isn’t even a song that has any logical right to exist in 2015. And that’s what makes it great. The album closes with four alternate versions of “Handsome,” “Dream Lover,” “20/20,” and “Give Me a Sign.” These remixes are, for lack of a better phrase, pretty cool.

The Vaccines are a good band and English Graffiti is truly a good album. Still, some of us have come to expect more than good from The Vaccines. It’s hard not to do so when their whole first record asks us about this. Maybe it’s wrong to judge a band’s latest album by comparing it to their previous work, but I don’t believe anybody can actually put aside their love (or hate) for the old when examining the new. How am I supposed to forget about “Post Break-Up Sex” or “Norgaard?” I eagerly await whatever’s next from The Vaccines, really, and I’m sure I’d love to see English Graffiti performed live. For the time being, though, I’m likely going to revisit Come of Age and What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? a few times before dipping back into English Graffiti.

FAV TRACKS: Give me a Sign, Minimal Affection, Dream Lover

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Radio Bikini, Denial, 20/20

SCORE: (7.0/10)

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