Friday, April 22, 2011

Music Review The Vaccines - What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?

A few months ago, I started participating in a private CD of the month club with a group of friends. Basically, the idea is that we each write a review of the CD to each other on an email list. These are pretty informal, but I thought, in the interest of keeping my blogging momentum up, I'd share a few here on Unattended Baggage. It's worth noting that of the six guys who participate in this group, I'm the only one who doesn't live in the UK. Thus, a lot of the music is British, although it's pretty much anything goes. This was my review of The Vaccines' What Did You Expect from the Vaccines:

This was my first exposure to the Vaccines and my first impression was they sound just like Coldplay. This was based on about 15 seconds of “All in White,” but still. Of course, this is only one of their many influences once you get into the album. On second and third listens, the album reminds me a lot of the high energy ‘80s punk albums like the Ramones, or even the more recent Strokes album. Lots of short, punchy songs to get you amped up and dancing, without dragging things out.

Wreckin Bar – Good opener, although it’s a blatant swipe of early punk songs. Still, these guys do justice to the old bands they’re imitating. The song is a rollicking sing-along, mosh pit power pop. Nothing original, but well-crafted and fun.

If You Wanna – Very catchy song, good guitar hook with what sounds like a synthesizer/keyboard? Definitely a highlight.

A Lack of Understanding – decent song, not a standout. This song also really sounds like a Coldplay track to me.

Blow It Up – another solid song, with great energy and a good hook.

Wetsuit – I really like the crashing cymbals in the chorus of this song, which is also probably the best showcase for the singer’s voice on the album. He sounds pretty good, although his voice doesn’t blow me out of the water.

Norgaard – This is another old school punk song, with its speedy, looping guitar chords, fast-paced drums and high energy. Interesting how the background singers bring in a ‘60s doo-wop beach sound. A weird touch, but it works. Great song!

Post-Break Up Sex – Anther song reminiscent of the Ramones. I can hear shades of "The KKK Took My Baby Away" in the opening minute or so. I love this song, another standout and the best lyrics (and title!) on the album.

Under Your Thumb – Would have preferred a Stones cover of "Under MY Thumb," but this song’s not bad, although a little too whiny and bland compared to other tracks.

All in White – This was the song that immediately made me think of Coldplay, and it’s not just that the singer sounds like Chris Martin; the whole song has a Coldplay vibe. That said, it’s still a pretty good song. I can imagine this being the big breakout radio hit from the album, although it’s not my personal favorite. It has that mass appeal style, though. Very consumer-friendly.

Wolf Pack – Not much to say about this one. OK song, but not my favorite.

Family Friend – I also get a Coldplay vibe from this song. Maybe it’s the slow, drawn out reverberating guitar chords and casual drumbeat. The song definitely builds toward a dramatic climax and I can imagine this as a good concert finale, with the band jamming for several minutes (a la MC5’s "Kick Out the Jams") before leaving the stage to cheering crowds. It would have been a solid closer for a solid album, except for the...

Hidden Track – I personally find hidden tracks kind of tired by this point. Just add the song to the album or don’t, you know? The quiet piano ballad, which sounds almost like a done-in-one studio demo, is kind of an outlier from the rest of the album, which I guess is why it was buried. It’s not bad but I definitely don’t think it adds anything to the album and probably should have been cut.

So, I guess my feeling about this album is that it’s well above average, with some truly excellent rock songs, but there’s nothing particularly original or interesting that distinguishes The Vaccines from several other bands. The best part of this album is that the songs are short. I like these guys, but their lack of originality keeps me from calling the album a classic. Still, I’d rate it 8/10.

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