The Vaccines’ English Graffiti Sounds Trendy, Not Timeless

Justin Young, frontman of British indie rock band The Vaccines, admitted to NME that he wanted their third album, English Graffiti, to not sound “timeless,” but rather, “We wanted to make something that sounds amazing next year and then terrible in 10 years! … The record’s hyper-stylised in a way we’ve never worked before. Nothing is natural sounding; it’s a lot more future sounding. We wanted to make a genre-defining record rather than something that would just fit in.”

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If you wanted to break down English Graffiti into a genre, the closest would be something like space rock, with a touch of punk. In practically every song, Young’s vocals sound spacey and echoey, like he recorded them floating above the recording studio. Synthesizers appear almost throughout the album as well. But it’s hard to sum up English Graffiti into a two-word genre description. There’s a clear duality in the album; it vacillates from short, fast punk songs to slower, melodic ballads.

The Vaccines has been compared to the Ramones before, and the Ramones’ influence lingers on this album.  Opener and first single “Handsome” is fun and silly, with a tongue-in-cheek chorus that repeats “Thank God I’m handsome.” “20/20” is fast, high-energy, and features punk riffs. “Radio Bikini” is the most Ramones-esque song on the record. At only 2 minutes long it’s like a sugar rush of quick riffs and loud sounds. “Denial” is more pop than punk but it’s just as catchy as the previous songs.

The alternate sound of English Graffiti lowers the energy levels but doesn’t sacrifice the charm. “Dream Lover” is a mid-tempo pop song that is more epic in scope than the punkier tracks. “(All Afternoon) In Love” and “Give Me a Sign” are very sweet, synth-heavy ballads. “Want You So Bad” has dreamy vocals and sultry riffs and sounds like something Tame Impala would record. Considering Dave Fridmann produced this record as well as some Tame Impala material, the influence seems intentional.

Towards the end of the record, The Vaccines drift away from the pop/punk, slow/fast duality that defines it. Title track “English Graffiti” is a surprising, stripped-down simple ditty. “Undercover” is a short instrumental-only interlude, and “Stranger” is a spacey pop tune with a heavy island influence.

Does English Graffiti live up to the lofty goal of being genre-defining? I wouldn’t say it reinvents the wheel, but Young’s goal that in 10 years we will hate it still has a chance of coming true.

Songs not to miss: “Dream Lover,” “Want You So Bad,” “Stranger”

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image occurs approximately at 1:48 in “Handsome”

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