wed 21/08/2019

CD: The Vaccines - Combat Sports | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Vaccines - Combat Sports

CD: The Vaccines - Combat Sports

Lively return to their trademark sound for one of Britain's breakout guitar bands

He wants to watch that cowboy hat doesn't get squashed

Three years ago The Vaccines’ last album, English Graffiti, received a mixed response. It appeared to be a stab at moving sideways from the previous two, at proving they were more than just a guitar band in the classic indie mould, that they could also be studio-produced into the realms of polished pop. It was an experiment they’re now, perhaps, less sure about. In any case, The Vaccines 2018 is a different band. Drummer Pete Robinson has left, to be replaced by Yoann Intonti of fellow London major-indie outfit Spector, and keyboard-player Tim Lanham has also joined. On Combat Sports this five-piece re-engage with the tuneful, new-wavey rock that made the band’s name.

Once upon a time this sound was called “power pop”. After the original late Seventies’ punk explosion various bands embraced the energy but not the gnarly, lo-fi ethos. The Vaccines’ sound bears especial comparison to the American acts who did this, the likes of The Knack, The Cars, The Go-Go’s, The Romantics and Martha and the Muffins who bridged the world of sweaty, parochial underground clubs and slick, nationwide FM radio. On a tune such as the thoughtful “I Can’t Quit” this is writ large, but it’s also there on more thrusting, lively cuts such as “Nightclub”. It’s all bouncily catchy.

The short of it is that The Vaccines are very good at this. Songs such as the pounding, shouty “Surfing in the Sky” leap out of the speakers with undeniable verve, while the album also boasts a romantic side, hinting that band-leader Justin Young has found love in New York, where he now resides. Songs in this vein, such as “Maybe (Luck of The Draw)” and “Young American”, are among the album’s most likeable and unforced.

Combat Sports may not sound original to anyone with a sense of musical history, but that’s not really the point. The Vaccines are one of the only guitar bands who can actually reach the Drake/Dua Lipa demographic, which only makes their catchy retro stew the more unique and enjoyable.

Overleaf: Watch The Vaccines perform "Put It On a Tee-Shirt" live

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