The release of English Graffiti, The Vaccines’ third studio album, is sort of like when your free-spirit, festival-going, usually high and at a party friend gets their heart broken. They’re sad and you want to be there for them, but they just keep droning on and on and the truth is you just want your fun friend back.
English Graffiti is good, it’s just not great and the album sort of sounds like your heartbroken, now boring, friend.
As a fan of The Vaccines and lead singer Justin Hayward-Young, I want to be there for them throughout their heartbreak, sort of boring album. I don’t mind it, it’s just not what I wanted.
I was a little worried when the singles, “Dream Lover” and “Minimal Affection” came out, but I remained hopefully. After listening though, The Vaccines have sadly, yet again, not topped the magic that was created in their first album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? (What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is the super fun, music festival version of your friend.)
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? had smart, generational lyrics, empowering drumbeats and a unique sound. The Vaccines weren’t necessary a rock band and they weren’t a pop band either, but you knew who The Vaccines were, and you liked it. They had created a summer world for Millennials to live in and feel understood, when they didn’t understand themselves.
After listening to English Graffiti, it’s a little unclear who The Vaccines are and who they want to be. Some songs sound like covers of The Doors, some sound like a rock version of The Beach Boys and some sound like they appeared on an album by The Human League. It’s all a bit confusing.
There isn’t much that ties the album together either. It’s missing a common theme, sound or concept to lace the songs into a whole. English Graffiti has a pretty melancholy undertone throughout, but it still sounds like 14 separate songs trying too hard to be relevant that were thrown together on an album.
The album isn’t bad. Songs like “Handsome”, “20/20” and “Denial” show off the witty, rhyme-heavy songwriting of Young and the unique garage band sound The Vaccines excel at. The title track, “English Graffiti”, is a pretty great love song.
My biggest problem with album overall is simple.
The best part about The Vaccines has always been Young’s voice, and in this album the band tries every possible way to cover it up. Whether it’s pilling on the reverb or creating an 80’s synth vibe or replacing singing with yelling or extra loud guitars, they are blocking one of the greatest treasures packaged with The Vaccines.
Third albums are hard, especially when you’ve had two great, successful proceeding albums. Forgive me, The Vaccines, I didn’t hate it, I just want my friend back.
Listen to English Graffiti on Spotify and iTunes now and catch The Vaccines on tour this summer!