Sebright Arms, London, June 22
“People think this happened quickly for our band, but all of us were playing venues this size for 10 years,” says Vaccines frontman Justin Young, clad in double denim, long hair flapping over his eyes, addressing the sweating group of bodies flailing in front of him. “But this is where rock music belongs.”
He might be right, but dingy back rooms in pubs like this Hackney boozer are not where the ever-growing Vaccines have stayed. It has been just two years since the quartet were playing venues this size without any ‘secret gig’ palaver surrounding them, and Young’s turnaround from boat shoe-wearing posh boy to hairy rock god has moved in parallel with the group’s transformation from hyped hopefuls to indie phenomenon. And yet, though the walls may be sweatier and the shouts a damn sight louder, there’s a raw energy about tonight that’s every bit as viscerally exciting as those early, initial “ra ra ra”s that introduced the first album.
This balance of progression and consistency is what you can expect from The Vaccines in 2012. Previewing roughly half of their forthcoming record ‘The Vaccines Come Of Age’ tonight, the overriding feeling is of a band that have grown, but not changed. It’s a vital difference. Recent release ‘No Hope’ already feels familiar, and the springier pace of ‘Teenage Icon’ makes it a kind of sequel to ‘If You Wanna’.
There are curveballs to be found in the three other newies, though they too feel familiar. ‘Ghost Town’, which gets its first public airing tonight, is the biggest surprise – rumbling along on angsty basslines and Young’s tense cries about a “ghost town where no-one goes”. ‘Weirdo’, meanwhile, finds the singer suppressing the shouts in favour of softly spoken, intimate vocals and Nirvana-tinged acoustics, while the spiky, punk angles of ‘Bad Mood’ might be the best thing they’ve ever done.
Tonight cements the fact that The Vaccines have become far too big for surroundings like these. But the real question remains: just how big is this band going to get?