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Every nine to eighteen months, it seems, there is a new garage-y, punk-y, pop-y outfit that comes along saddled with the unfair baggage of “saving” rock n roll (as though it was in danger of extinction), or spearheading some rock n roll “return” (as though it went anywhere). It’s important, mind you, that you include the “n roll” to the genre. Because in this day and age, “rock n roll” is rhetorically quite different from that oh-so-broad-and-imprecise “rock”. “Rock n roll” you see, implies that the music being delivered is, choose your cliché: “straight ahead”, “no-nonsense”, or “back to basics”. In other words, not too dreamy, not too noisy, not too lo-fi, not too shoegazing, not too arty, not too dissonant. Just reliably been there, done that. These bands come overwhelmingly more often than not from our UK brethren, where a taste for this tried and true sound is seemingly limitless, where The Strokes and the two-album barely breathing Libertines continue to reside in some Valhalla of public opinion.
So, meet the 2011 model of rock “saviors”, The Vaccines. In less than a year of existence, the band has landed a Zane Lowe “hottest record” designation, a nomination in the BBC’s “Sound of 2011”, a spot in the NME Awards Tour, an appearance on Jools Holland, and that’s just at home. In this country, The Vaccines recently played on David Letterman, an exceedingly early booking for a band that whose debut album doesn’t come out in America until this week, and a testament no doubt to the creepily outsized heft of Columbia Records (yes, they are with that thousand-pound gorilla). They’ve also got a support slot on the current US tour by the Arctic Monkeys, who know a little something about being a much-hyped English band, and who went on to quietly live up to all their advance billing and then some.
In fact, The Vaccines seem to have taken a page from the Monkeys’ head-off-the-hype approach, with the title of their debut What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? reminiscent of the 2006 EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? Despite the fact that some in the UK press have already chewed up these boys and spat them out, the good news is that their debut, as “rock n roll” albums go, is not bad at all. Songs like “Post Break-Up Sex”, “Wolf Pack” and especially lead single “Wreckin’ Bar” reside comfortably alongside indie evergreens like The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” and The Strokes’ “Barely Legal”, the latter also having a, ahem, thematic connection to The Vaccines’ rave up “Nørgaard”.
Perfectly likable, even more than that in places, like standout track “Blow It Up”. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but not everyone needs to, and let’s face it, some people flat out aren’t looking for that. How about you? Why don’t you listen to this much talked about debut and give us your answer to the question What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? And – did they live up to it?