It’s funny talking about What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? now, as the group that NME had crowned “The Return of the Great British Guitar Band” has all but fizzled out in the six months or so since their debut album was released. Listening to the London group’s newest, one will note that all the hype that was hoisted upon them was probably not warranted. This is not because the group’s debut is particularly bad, but because it is very much a “little” album.
You know, a “little” album. One whose creators intended to lay down a long player’s worth of songs for the joy of making music and perhaps some naïve ideas of rock and roll stardom. With it, you got some clever lyricism, a charismatic but introverted leader, maybe some nifty guitar solos. It’s by no means distinct, but, then again, it never aspires to be. What Did You Expect features all these elements to some extent, giving more credence to the album’s sarcastic title, and yet The Vaccines were still forced into the stratosphere before they had gotten remotely close to honing their craft. It’s no wonder American audiences have yet to be turned on to them.
It should be noted that What Did You Expect is still quite good, despite its modesty. It’s loaded with solid melodies and that aforementioned clever wordplay from frontman Justin Young. The group sounds like prime Futureheads as they spell out the name of the titular model in “Norgaard” and the bluntness in the chorus of “Post Break-Up Sex” (“Post break-up sex / That helps you forget your ex / What did you expect / From post break-up sex?”) is refreshing, even if it sets the depth bar pretty damn low. Young’s ruminations on “Family Friend”, (“Do people really feel as high as a kite? / I don’t know if they do but they might”) ain’t exactly Nietzsche, but the track has a precocious theatricality to it that still makes it an enjoyable listen. Call it froth, but sometimes froth tastes really, really good.
On paper, The Vaccines sound like a group that should be dismissed, immediately. However, six months in, What Did You Expect is still worth the time. It may not have the bombast of Oasis or the pseudo-wryness of Arctic Monkeys, but The Vaccines’ newest bests both Suck It and See and the new Beady Eye album by sounding more like a British Yuck (I’m aware Yuck are from the UK, but they play a style of indie rock that is distinctly American), which is still quite satisfying. I feel bad that The Vaccines were subject to that big ‘ol hype machine, of which admittedly fewer and fewer bands seem to be falling victim to, but What Did You Expect is still one of the best of its kind released this year. The great thing about “little” albums like it that set such low goals is that sometimes it’s fun to see them hit the mark every time.