Does The Vaccines new album English Graffiti really “sound like 2015”?
“Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god they’re gonna eat me up for breakfast…” This is how lead singer of indie-Brit-rock band The Vaccines, Justin Young begins the opening track of English Graffiti, Handsome. This is the band’s first offering since 2013’s Melody Calling EP, and he’s clearly anticipating some harsh reviews. Pitchfork gave it a six-point-three out of 10, NME went on to give it a lovely eight out of 10 and The Guardian gave it three stars. So far, the reviews seem to be mixed.
The thing with English Graffiti is that it can’t seem to make up its mind with where it wants to be. It sounds like a mixture of bands have been shoved in together – like a lot of music these days – but of course, the beauty in that approach is that if you happen to like any of those bands, (in this case, The Strokes, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys) there’s a high chance you’ll like this.
Handsome is a clear single-song. Catchy, jumpy, fast paced, loads of guitars and drums…but what follows is a total departure from that. Dream Lover prompts you to check that whatever medium you’re listening to English Graffiti on, hasn’t skipped to another band. This whole checking-what-band-you’re-listening-to thing happens pretty much through the entire album. Minimal Affection sounds like something outta the 80s; 20/20 brings back the fast-paced single-worthy goodness, while (All Afternoon) In Love, and Maybe I Could Hold You are slow ballad-y tunes. Denial proves to be a little bit electro and synth loaded; Want You So Bad has a drum beat that reeks of Red Hot Chilli Peppers; Give You A Sign is sweet and sugary, “Would you blow me kisses, if I kept my distance?”, and Undercover wraps you up in acoustic guitar meets synth.
Nothing on this record is consistent, the whole thing is just a tad bi-polar. English Graffiti is an aural experience and provides much more than merely listening to an album by some British indie-rock band.
Of the new album, in an interview with NME, Young said, “I started to feel being timeless isn’t a good thing,” he said. “I wanted to make a record that was important in 2015 and sounded like 2015.”
…but is English Graffiti really what 2015 sounds like?
Lecturer at JMC Academy, Daniel Bodnarcuk, seems to agree with The Vaccines on this one.
“Inside the pubs, clubs, bars and lounges, you can hear absolutely every kind of music imaginable…”, he begins. “I would say a major contribution to the development of the evolution of music is linked with social context. Music is an expression of ones self and in order to obtain identity of ones self, there is a necessity to exist within a sociological framework. Therefore, music is going to be a commentary snapshot of a moment in time, unique to the individual or group of individuals who are performing it…
I think the shape of pop-music is reflective of the way in which we operate within our society. Filled with hooks, constantly changing, grabbing at our attention, consumer friendly… I teach a class that features heavily on the analysis of popular musical genres throughout history and I like to finish by posing the question ‘So where too next?’. Not surprisingly, the answers will vary from student to student. There will be a diverse range of predictions usually correlating with the music they most prefer to identify with.”
But singer Alex MacRae from indie band Songs Of Rico seems to have different ideas – suggesting that we’re heading in a clear direction towards house music and conscious hip-hop.
“I’ve noticed old school disco and house/trance beginning to make an impact – especially in the club scene – which I feel will permeate the wider music scene. But of course this is all coming from a musician who is embedded in the Melbourne music scene,” said Mr MacRae.
“The new Kendrick Lamar album is amazing – I think that will be shaping the sound of 2015 as well…It’s popular because it’s good – although some things aren’t popular because they’re good – but it is in this case – and because of its popularity, it becomes influential… We all saw how many Tame Impala clones there were after [albums] Innerspeaker and Lonerism…”
And what do the solo artists think? Singer/songwriter Mitchell Ward said, “The sound of 2015 is a gritty, messy sonic-collage of re-reinvented retro fodder, that’s winning us over for now… We’ll be its bitch until everybody gets through their NYE hangovers in 2016 and realises there’s some good music on the way.” – Taylor Yates
Top photo supplied by Press