Let’s cut to the chase: UK indie-rock outfit The Vaccines’ sophomore effort Come of Age is good. Really good. Their Ramones/Strokes-influenced blend of indie-rock and pop/punk is wholly appealing. But one might begin to think they don’t know how to title their albums.
Consider “exhibit A”—What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? Right off the bat, with the album title, this band preps their audience by lowering their expectations—not entirely unlike the GOP in advance of a presidential debate. (Sorry—stay on point, Tim.) The thing is, the warning was entirely unnecessary. The Vaccines’ debut did remarkably well and immediately found an enthusiastic audience. And although they barely made it on the radar in the US, peaking at 197 on the Billboard 200, the album hit Number 4 in the UK, making it the strongest debut of the year across the pond.
Now, barely 18 months later, the lads release Come of Age. This title, of course, suggests that the band has “arrived”—and less than two years after their self-deprecating debut, at that.
Wow. That was fast. All growed up now, huh?
Nope. The Vaccines are good. Really good. But they haven’t come of age. As a band, they are barely reaching puberty.
Okay, in fairness, the title actually comes from a lyric in the opening track “No Hope,” in which frontman Justin Young rambles about being “young and bored and 24.” And he’s right—there is another “coming of age” at that stage of life that a lot of twenty-somethings go through. Very insightful, actually. The rest of the album continues to wind along a similar thread, grappling with the issues of identity, meaning, self-loathing (and yes, lowered expectations) that are so often associated with—well—trying to come of age. Lyrics like “I’m no teenage icon / I’m no Frankie Avalon / “I’m nobody’s hero” (from “Teenage Icon”), “I self-destruct for fun and I don’t know why” (from “All In Vain”), and “Oh, you look disappointed in me / Oh, am I not as thoughtful as you thought I’d be?” (from “Bad Mood”) are exemplary of the overall mood of Come of Age. In fact, the whole thing sort of plays an expanded punk rock opera inspired by Radiohead’s “Creep” (there’s even a song called “Weirdo”).
That being said, The Vaccines have definitely found a sound that strikes a nerve. Simple, driving, greaser-influenced rock & roll that acts like it could fit just as well in a 70s punk club as in a scene from The Outsiders. The lyrics might seem a bit depressing at times, but the music is cathartic. In a strange way, it makes you feel better.
And it’s good. Really good.
So if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably figured out that my tongue was in my cheek when I said the band didn’t know how to title their records. Come Of Age aptly describes what the record is about. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t accurately describe the band itself. The Vaccines are a band that shows an exceptional amount of promise, and they have definitely made an impact in the two years they’ve been in existence—but they are still evolving and refining—and appealing as this raw sound is now, they have to evolve if they’re going to last. It will be interesting to watch how they grow from here.