Crowded out by dynamic drum looping auto-tunes vocals, and the hype of pop subculture, guitar music has faded into the background, and drifted out of the mainstream limelight. As of last Monday, the Vaccines have shaped up to bring guitar music back to today’s youth.
Guitar music has turned into something of a myth to today’s youth. They hear stories of famous rock stars revolutionising the way music was plucked out to the public, the way rebellion and anarchy was something of a social norm, and they start to grasp the concept of what sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll actually is. Sadly, it seems that the sound of the amplifier buzz has been dismissed from young minds, to make way for auto-tuned, pampered up teen-dream vocals. Teenagers today are more interested in highlights, hairspray, and Bieber, rather than blood, sweat, and vomit.
Justin Young, and The Vaccines were part of the very select few that took the legend of guitar playing, womanising, anarchist punk rockers idea very much to heart. To them, it was always much more than an afterthought. Combining the pop-indie structure of The Futureheads, and the raw guitar sound of The Sex Pistols, the London-based foursome released their first single ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’, on the 22nd of November last year. Debuting in the UK charts at 157, initial reactions from the mainstream public were sceptical of what The Vaccines could offer popular music. To the band themselves, this didn’t matter. They simply didn’t care. After all, they did exactly what they wanted to do. Despite the low placement in the chart, miles away from the golden top forty zone, at least it meant someone was listening to them. To an independent audience, it was a similar interpretation. It was noisy, unshaped, dirty music. And they loved it. Upon hearing The Vaccines first effort, the minorities came flooding in.
‘Wreckin’ Bar’ brought the mindless guitar smashing violence that the indie few of the British public craved. For once, people didn’t need hearing aid or to take out a mortgage for noise-cancelling headphones in order to pick up each panned texture and harmonised note in a song. All they had to do was press play, sit back, and just listen to it. The cockney-like scream and baritone of Justin Young’s vocals mimicked the rebellion and attitude of a young Hugh Cornwall, of The Stranglers. It’s not quite punk rock, but it’s punk enough.
In the awakening and aftermath of their first singles success, it wasn’t too long before people got talking about The Vaccines. In the same indie style, the band put out their second single to the public, as rumours and hype of a debut album were passing from ear to ear over the country. On the 11th of January 2011, ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ hit the record shops, and more mainstream ears pricked up to the prospect of a band people actually wanted to hear more of, rather than less. Veering more to pop-rock end of the spectrum, ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ brought up the teenage issue of sexual promiscuity and separation, entwined with the “I don’t care” attitude of punk rock. Young bellows in the opening verse “I can barely look at you, don’t tell me who you lost it to”, mirroring the way complexity of teenage relationships, and the physical side behind the emotional side of youth and romance. Over this, the simple four-chord pop song structure, filled with deep, buzzing bass guitar, and a echoed punchy snare drum. It’s music for the youth, and that’s why it’s adored by the youth. The Vaccines have offered a cure for the dreary, repetitive garbage that young ears are exposed to.
After weeks of hype, tension, and praise, The Vaccines released their debut record ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ last Monday. Evidently, it’s a tricky business. Too many times have bands impressed in the mainstream and indie charts, and too many times have they failed to make an imprint on the mould of modern music, and an overall impact on the target audience. Now, can we finally say that a typically indie band have made it on the big scene without stumping or sub coming to the over-produced pop culture? After being together for less than a year, the impression that The Vaccines have left on the public is shaping up to similar what The Libertines and The Arctic Monkeys did years before. Thankfully, this same impression bleeds and oozes from their debut album.
“I don’t really know how to sing, I just like making a noise. Turns out, people like that too. It just sounds good.” – Justin Young
With their moody, carefree persona and appearance, their public image reflects the way their album is produced. Producer Dan Gretch manages to bring out the raw stringy sound of the guitar and bass within the album, as well as equalising the finishing the clarity of Justin Young’s voice inch perfectly. On tracks like ‘Blow it Up’ the deep throbbing , vascular bass line compliments their tinny and blistering chord line over Young’s rhythmic guitar line, while his sharp lyrics roll effortlessly off is tongue. Keeping with Young’s vocals, Freddie Cowan, younger brother of Tom Cowan of The Horrors, harmonises Young’s vocals beautifully with his trill, and smooth lead guitar work. The songs simplistic brilliance is emphasised by the punk-style unison screaming of the songs title “Blow it up! Blow it up! Blow it up!”.
The Vaccines moody frame is pressed against their short and simplistic song writing, and pulls at the ears of their listeners. They make people want to listen to them, but without shoving it their faces. ‘If You Wanna’ justifies this point. Taking a route edging towards a more dreary, and sombre side, ‘If You Wanna’ takes focus on the loneliness of breaking up with someone, much like on ‘Post Break-Up Sex’. However, they continue to act carefree, even within songs based around such emotional and sensitive subjects. The lyrics of “If you wanna come back it’s alright, it’s alright”, which opposes the assumption of desperation in such a scenario. The Vaccines bring something different to modern day music. A simplistic, raw attitude that shines off of the shoulders of such bands like The Strokes, and more modern, rough grunge bands such as Yuck, and The Drums.
Breaking into more poppy waters, The Vaccines, as a group of young gentlemen, take a strong interest in the opposite gender, much like their teenage indie fan base would do. Last week, iTunes released ‘Norgaard’ as free single of the week, which essentially promoted the band to a larger, mainstream audience. ‘Norgaard’ isn’t dissimilar to the past indie pop workings of Oasis.
A cheeky male overtone is created by Young’s lyrics, singing “You’re a Godsend, do you want a boyfriend?”, which highlight the poppy complexion and element The Vaccines bring into their music. The fast pace clatter of the drum kit is something that can be replicated by every budding and enthusiastic drummer in their garage with just a bass drum, hi hat, and poor skinned snare drum. Young’s vocals stay constantly moody, yet constantly brilliant throughout the record. His phrasing of lyrics, and his tralining melody switches that he swans off with from his words add to the raw talent of The Vaccines as a band. Each member brings a simplistic tether to the band as a whole. Take one of them away, and the bands dynamics drop a octave or so. They’re a four piece, and a four piece they should stay.
It’s been less than a year since the coming together of The Vaccines, and if you step back and look at whet they’ve done, it’s almost unbelievable. They’ve revolutionised a meeting point between the known mainstream culture within out musical society, and independent minorities with their vibrantly colour hair, trimmed chino’s, and move boat shoes. Their debut album, “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” sings and bashes out raw, filthy, bass and guitar ridden pop songs, branching off of the rock tree. It’s taken a while for people to finally point their ear drums in a new and different direction, but it’s happened. You might say that the minorities have finally got one over on the Gaga obsessed mainstream crowds. Overall, the short and rocky album is something of a sensation. I think it’s safe to say, that for the first time since The Libertines, guitar music is cool again.