Speaking to NME earlier this February, there was an air of apology about Freddy-and-Justin-from-the-Vaccines. As they stared hazily into space, the pair struggled over how to best describe their debut album: “I think the sound is quite immediate…” “…Yeah… yeah I don’t think it’s very… err… testing… I think you’ll know straight away whether you like it or whether you don’t…” Their modesty is endearing. They seem genuinely concerned about what the public might expect from them. Who could blame them? Having been almost universally touted as ‘the next big thing’, ‘the sound of 2011’, or else ‘the second coming of Pete and Carl’, it’s understandable that the band wouldn’t want to raise their fandom’s already highly inflated hopes any further.
But does What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? deserve these defensive sentiments? Yes, sadly. It is a debut full of youthful exuberance and catchy hooks, but woefully lacking in depth, originality and just about everything else. The lyrics are the worst offender. Meaningless literary references (“The angles came F. Scott Fitzgerald / The evening news and the morning Herald”) and choruses worryingly suggestive of sexual grooming (“Her mind’s made up; she don’t wanna go steady / She’s only seventeen, so she’s probably not ready”) are just a hint towards how vacuous this record actually is.
The album isn’t devoid of value. The band certainly has an ear for a melody, and they clearly know their audience. It’s just disappointing that they haven’t developed their ideas into fully fledged pop songs, and that they’re too brazenly commercial to seriously be considered punk. They lend heavily from both genres, but do justice to neither.