The Vaccines, “Combat Sports”
Hugely successful in the UK, The Vaccines’ every move was front-page news on the recently defunct print edition of NME (RIP), and their 2011 album was the best-selling debut of the year. But they have yet to replicate a stateside trajectory comparable to their older compatriots Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, with whom they share rock and roll DNA. Combat Sports, The Vaccines’ latest, may be their fourth—yet for many yanks it will be an introduction to the band.
Billed as a return to their post-punk roots after the more extravagant leanings of predecessor English Graffiti, this album is for the most part loud, fast, and upbeat, with lots of eighth-note guitar lines and shouty vocals. It is also, despite its energy, more than occasionally boring.
Sports starts on a promising note, with the Strokes-y (a descriptor that could apply to many songs on the album) and melodic “Put It on a T-Shirt,” which is followed by the undeniably infectious first single “I Can’t Quit.” From there, things start to plateau; “Your Love Is My Favourite Band” adds ’80s-style keyboards over a Rick Astley melody, while “Surfing in the Sky” and “Maybe (Luck of the Draw)” fail to connect. Mid-album ballad “Young American” is the most confounding track of the eleven: though sensitive and heartfelt, the sometimes-icky lyrics, such as “Suffocate me in between your thighs,” distract from potential enjoyment of the music.
We get a reprieve with “Nightclub,” which sports a driving Franz-like riff and great guitar play and vocals. Alas—triteness takes over shortly after on “Take It Easy,” where the lyrics “I wanna fly you to the moon, but I don’t want to pay for gas” are just one example of many questionable phrasing choices. Album closer “Rolling Stones” confuses an attempt at badassery with more shouting.