25 May 2015
It has becomes somewhat fashionable, in recent years, to belittle a band for ‘selling out’ once they become remotely successful or famous. This is undoubtedly the case with The Vaccines, whose catchy brand of guitar pop has propelled them from raucous NME heartthrobs to Radio 1 mainstays. English Graffiti, the third album from the London-based quartet, is broadly more of the same good old-fashioned indie pop… but you know what? I fucking love it.
The album opens with ‘Handsome’ – a two minute long helter skelter of skuzzy guitar rifts that has more than a whiff of The Ramones about it. Lead singer Justin Young is still as witty and sharp as ever on vocals that you just can’t help but sing along to.
The beauty of English Graffiti is in its ability to take the very best from debut What Did You Expect… and follow up Come of Age, whilst also experimenting with new genres and sounds; the guitars are dirtier and more visceral, the bass more powerful. Influences from the likes of Arctic Monkeys (the opening rift from ‘Dream Lover’ could have been lifted straight off ‘Do I Wanna know’) and the Strokes are clear, whilst everything about the record is more ambitious and complex in scope than its predecessors. A particular highlight is ‘(All Afternoon) In Love,’ an eerily majestic ballad full of nostalgia and regret, which couldn’t be further from the angsty rock anthems that made the band famous.
My only criticism of the album would be that it tails off slightly towards the end. The likes of ‘Minimal Affection’ and ‘20/20’ stick in the head long after the album fades away; the same cannot be said off, for example, ‘Maybe I Could Hold…’ – an ethereal but less accessible number. However, this is but a minor quibble. Ignore the haters, English Graffiti sees The Vaccines evolve and come of age as a band, whilst still sticking to their roots, making the album a joy to listen to.