Rivers Cuomo is probably jealous of this album. The Vaccines’ frontman, Justin Hayward-Young, is a huge fan of Pinkerton, the second album released by Weezer, so it makes sense that this album should be produced by Dave Fridmann, the man who produced Pinkerton. In comparison to The Vaccines’ earlier work, English Graffiti is a lot tighter and less garage sounding, but still has the angst that Weezer gave us in 1996.
There are a few different tones going on throughout the album. In songs like “Handsome,” “Minimal Affection,” and “Radio Bikini,” you have the traditional brit pop era approach, with upbeat and riveting guitars. In contrast, songs “Want You So Bad” and “Maybe I Could Hold You” give off a vibe similar to the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, AM. These tracks are complete with droning falsetto chorus lines, simple hip-hop grooves, and all too catchy guitar and bass lines. Other tracks such as, “(All Afternoon) In Love” introduce a more melancholy side that the group has kept bottled up until now. Conversely, you have “Denial,” which turns the tables on that failed love of yours as you try to explain your true thoughts. From the lyrics, Young seems more self-aware with each track.
The album kicks off with “Handsome,” delivering The Vaccines’ signature thrashing guitar tones and thundering percussive beats, then going into a funky vibe of flashing lights and a fun, exuberant atmosphere you’d expect from a British indie rock group. However, it’s the lyricism behind The Vaccines that sets them apart from the rest. Listen to “Handsome,” dance around, and be thankful you are not a pop star. Pop stars are often glorified as beautiful people, and bands such as these are showered in praise and have big egos because of it. But it’s all a disguise. The Vaccines are well aware of this, which is why they often sing about shallow lives and shallow day-to-nightly actions, which is more relatable than someone talking about how they are a deity… you can’t judge them for that.
Young’s subject matter quickly turns to the darker tones of late nights in a big city, where you go home with someone, in hopes to fulfill your perfect standards. It is then that you realize you have a whole lot of disappointment in front of you. You’ve either tried too hard or not hard enough. You then realize you don’t love that person anymore. And soon, you are left blind, not knowing where to go or how to move on. Then when you finally do, and you are suddenly not allowed that simple pleasure anymore. That is another prime example of the acute self-awareness this album gives off.
The production has increased as well, with great outcomes. When you look at their first album, the vocals were condensed and stretched to make you feel like you were in the drippy basement that they probably wrote those songs in. Listening to the band now, Dave Fridmann did a terrific job rebuilding their sound. The four bandmates seem to have finally found their solid ground. Their lyricism has improved. Their musicality has improved. Their sound has tightened and steered towards a more quality sound. But really, what did you expect from The Vaccines?