Coming of age is an interesting concept. In literature it is called bildungsroman, and generally it has connotations of a transition from childhood to adulthood. A sort of spiritual and physical change that sees a person put away Kipling’s childish things and embrace the seriousness of real life. However, coming of age can literally also mean simply getting older and this has very different implications – for instance, becoming boring. Coming of age can mean taking to a life of driving around suburbia, driving a mini-van in beige slacks and essentially losing all that is unique about oneself. If you’ll allow me, I’d say that The Vaccines have released a middle aged second album. It has traces of what they intrinsically were as a band, but it is jaded, tired-sounding and above all – dull.
Lead Vocalist Justin Young encapsulates the problem. While we can all appreciate and understand the effects of his recurring vocal cord problems I would still say that where in their debut album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Young was bursting with energy and his lyrics were admittedly nonsensical but enjoyable – now his sound is merely drawling and lazy. It sounds as though even he can’t be bothered to listen to the songs, never mind perform them. Indeed, even if the words were once nonsensical at least they were instantly recognizable. You could train a pair of shorts to sing the refrain to Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) whereas now, after several listens I could not even try and tell you what any of the tracks on this album are about.
What’s more the album becomes a veritable dirge. Every song seems to start in roughly the same time signature. They all meander along, break for the seemingly obligatory guitar solo and finally peter out into nothingness. Aftershave Ocean is a case and point. It is actually painful to listen to Freddie Cowan’s noodling midway through. The final stuttering bar that serves as the ending to the song is so predictable a conclusion that it sounds like they may as well have just put the ‘Countdown’ clock on the track.
I think easily the worst thing about the album is the obvious lack of joy. The Vaccines burst onto the Indie Rock scene, causing mayhem at festivals and in their live shows all around the country with their infectious tunes and personas. Sweaty teens everywhere revelled in pogoing around and shouting loudly and on the whole having a great time. Essentially, everyone was loving it. Yet now the party seems to be over. The difficult second album has been made to look very easy in recent years with the likes of Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys releasing instant classics after excellent debuts. However it seems that The Vaccines have had no such luck. I could not begin to guess what has gone wrong behind the scenes with Come of Age but all I can say is that somewhere, somehow, the fun has died. Now in its place, we have boring.
Image by UrbanicaMX.