The Vaccines, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ – First Listen

The Vaccines’ debut album isn’t out until March 21, but Matt Wilkinson has heard it. Here’s his first listen response

Recorded at: RAK and Miloco, London
Producer: Dan Grech



Wreckin’ Bar
This one you’ll probably already know, of course, seeing as it came out as a single a little while back. It’s a great, frantic, frenetic way to start the album. 1 minute and 23 seconds of intense pop-punk – and also home to one of the finest pedal-to-the-metal guitar solos in aaaaaaages. What more can we say?

If You Wanna
Another oldie, though this one’s been revamped and re-recorded in the studio (it’s also the next single, out March 21). They’ve really nailed it – which is handy because both guitarist Freddie Cowan and singer Justin Young told me in interviews they were a bit wary about re-doing older material for the album. They needn’t have worried. The ending is heartstoppingly heavy.

A Lack Of Understanding
This one’ll definitely get some Pixies comparisons, thanks to the majestic drum/bass intro. Although, as soon as Justin starts singing he takes it to a different place entirely. “I’ve got too much time on my hands,” he croons, strangely recalling a more subdued Adam Green.

Blow It Up
Sturdy, distortion/arpeggio-loving paean to breaking, well, everything and anything.


An album standout, and one that fans seemed to go mental for at the bands gig at London’s Kings College student union last weekend (despite not knowing it at all). Starts off slow, with a beautifully woozy keyboard line before turning into a full-on riposte to The Ramones’ Phil Spector-produced ‘Danny Says’.

Libertines-like punk romp that sees Justin jabbering on about young lust – one of the album’s major themes. Sample lyrics: “British cheekbones/teenage hormones/young complexion and physical affection/you’re a godsend – do you wanna boyfriend?” It’s simple, it’s mega-fast and it’s a surefire singalong come festival-time.

Post Break-Up Sex
The band’s latest single and probably the best song about your ex-girlfriend’s sex life ever to enter the UK singles chart (almost outselling Beady Eye’s first single too, incidentally).

Under Your Thumb
Cascading vocals from Justin about a girl called Eleanor who won’t let him have his wicked way with her. The tease! She may or may not be real, according to the singer.

All In White
Probably the most epic song on the album. ‘All In White’ recalls the stadium-primed antics of Arcade Fire et al rather than the CBGB’s strut Justin and co are more associated with.


Wolf Pack
As the alt-funk intro gives way to a garage boogie similar to early Kings Of Leon, this one acts as one final rockabilly-pogo-rumpus before the band call time on the album.

Family Friend
Slow-building, 4am at a houseparty-type album closer, with Justin in somewhat bruised and reflective mood. “Does everybody really feel as high as a kite?” he asks forlornly at one point, later adding triumphantly, “If you want a bit of love put your head on my shoulder”. The ending is almost reminiscent of The La’s ‘Lookin’ Glass’, with the band collapsing in a scream of feedback and wrestled guitar shrieks. About ten seconds later, Justin returns on his own, playing a two-minute piano song called ‘Somebody Else’s Child’ that echoes the more tender moments of Wings-era McCartney. It’s a suitably cool way to bring things to a halt.

By fusing elements of US pop-punk (the Ramones – not Blink 182), chillwave (they too are obsessed with reverb) and classic good-time pop’n’roll (The Strokes, primetime Libs/KOL), The Vaccines have recorded an album that – if things continue to go their way – should serve to give British rock music a much-needed jolt in the arm. It’s a lot more varied than you might imagine too – tracks veering from snotty punk rock to more brooding and epic affairs.

Catch The Vaccines on the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour, which kicks off in Glasgow on February 3