The Vaccines press the reset button.
The year is 2010. The Vaccines are being hailed as the second coming of British Indie Rock; The next Oasis, with less nasally vocals and petty rivalries. While this sounds like the dream scenario for any West London outfit such as The Vaccines, there is one tiny problem. The onus now is to prove that the staying power that was claimed they did all those years ago. Here we are, eight years, three albums and one identity crisis later, and The Vaccines have made a sober return to their foundations with Combat Sports
in an attempt to hit the reset button.
The album is probably best marked as a return to the band’s guitar-driven days. From the off, an opening charge, in the form of 'Put It On A T-Shirt
' and 'I Can’t Quit
'. You might feel a creep of a content smile come over you as you hear the fluttering rock guitars or zealous use of bass and kick-drum. Even the lyrics are punishing, with their references to egos and gods and putting their grandiose adventures on a T-Shirt. There’s a sense self-awareness or existentialism here, but more than that, it’s authentic and refreshing.
In moments like ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’, they find a way to dabble in bright chords and big hooks. Showing that they still known how to knock out an anthemic tune. It’s high flying cuts like these on the album that work so well with frontman Justin Young vocals, spliced in to sing about his tales of love and relationships and lament. Then there are songs like the pounding and intensely paced 'Surfing in the Sky
'. The fast, soaring guitars on this one are probably most in line with the English darling Rock that most seem to know the band
for. The lively instrumentation is indicative of a verve and energy the band want to give in all their music. It’s not long before songs like 'Maybe (Luck of The Draw)
' and 'Young American
', see the album settle in a place that comfortable and unforced.
At the very least, the album is consistent in its production and mixing. With the laid-back, washed-over (but not lazy) sound that drives the record. It’s what makes the synth-rock sound of the album comes across as thematic. As we go into songs like ‘Take It Easy
’, a rounder with pop sensibilities, but still fresh and likeable.
No one ever said being in a Rock n’ Roll band was easy. For The Vaccines, it’s been anything but. But with ‘Combat Sports
’, they have made it look easy. The power-pop overtones and guitar-fronted anthems make such a comfortable listen, compared to efforts in the past. It’s interesting if a little awkward when a band have to come crashing back to earth with a reality check of who they are. If the result is something like “Combat Sports”, maybe it’s for the best.
Listen to The Vaccines' new album Combat Sports in full below