The Vaccines are back. And, before any of you try to be smart, not in a medical way. I mean the band; the British boys behind one of the best debuts of all time, (What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?) which peaked at number 4 in the UK charts. In 2012, they gave us the punky Come of Age, 2015 featured the lowdown fuzz of English Graffiti and in 2018 we devoured the timeless hits of Combat Sports – from ‘I Can’t Quit’ to ‘Put It On A T-Shirt’. They’ve sold hundreds of thousands of records, played arenas, festivals, Glastonbury, and probably accompanied your night out at the student union.
Well, now Justin Young et al. are back and ready to unleash their ‘fifth child’ unto the faithful few: Back in Love City (releasing September 10th); a conceptual record of sorts set against the backdrop of Blade Runner and Cowboy Bebop’s bastard son; the mysterious ‘Love City’. The album’s lead single, ‘Headphones Baby’ was released back in May, and another teaser – the record’s titular anthem – came out the following month. Both are tributes to the star-studded, synth-shrouded glamour of the 80s; but undeniably with that modern, indie rock twist the band have refined since their leap onto the scene in 2011.
It’s fair to say that, if you’re any kind of Vaccines fan, you’ve got a lot to be excited about right now. A live favourite, ‘Jump Off the Top’ was debuted in 2018, and will, this September, finally see its release in studio form. And it sounds amazing.
On the 14th July, The Vaccines took part in a personal, ‘intimate’ live show over Zoom, called the ‘Love City Disco’, where randomly-selected competition entrants could win the chance to attend. Well, somehow, yours truly won a virtual ticket. And it was amazing. The band played stripped-down, acoustic versions of the two singles released thus far – which sounded surprisingly fresh without all the glamour and synth – and gave us the chance to hear the album version of ‘Jump Off the Top’. Which I already know will become one of the group’s live staples for decades to come.
But if that was the starter, then the main course – nay – dessert came in the form of the Vaccines’ first real gig in over two years, broadcasting on ‘thereislight’s Twitch over the evening of Sunday 18th of July. Supported by the lovably bizarre Lynks (who I strongly recommend checking out themselves), Young, (Freddie) Cowan, (Arni) Arnason, (Timothy) Lanham and (Yoann) Intonti took to the stage at Lafayette, in London, and played a solid hour of old favourites, classic hits and new material. Specifically, songs ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Alone Star’ – the latter of which is Cowan’s personal favourite from the record.
And, in case you’re wondering, they sound amazing. ‘Wanderlust’ is a track that Young himself comments on being one fans will love live – and it’s not hard to see why, given it features one of the group’s crunchiest riffs to date; sounding like something out of 2012’s Come of Age. ‘Alone Star’, on the other hand, is the punk-pop you’ve all come to love from this band – whilst remaining ‘one of the most colourful… adventurous songs [they’ve] ever done’. ‘Jump Off the Top’ sounded incredible and, all in all, it’s fair to say that Back in Love City is going to be one of the best records of the year. Possibly of recent history. Possibly ever. I like to think that if cave art was a common practice today, you’d see its narcotic-ridden cover etched into every available surface. It’s that good.
And, for those who prefer their early stuff, the band still barraged through classics like ‘If You Wanna’, ‘I Always Knew’, ‘I Can’t Quit’ and closer, ‘All In White’ – without a doubt one of the fans’ most beloved. Even with a sore throat (And Arnason boasting a broken ankle), Young powered through anthem after anthem; a testament to the band’s timeless catalogue – from their long-haired, punky ‘Norgaard’ days to 2021’s seamless sexual swagger. If this is how the Vaccines sound for their first gig in two years, one can only marvel at how explosive they’ll be with a few more soundchecks under their belt.
Then came the Q&A, hosted by BBC radio presenter (and all round ball of energy) Jack Saunders. On what words they would use to sum up the new album – Author’s Note: I asked this question in the chat, and you’re welcome – Cowan presented us with ‘Frontier Rock’; no doubt an answer inspired by the album’s creation in Sonic Ranch, Texas, the world’s largest residential recording complex. Cowan went on to explain that Mexico and personal ventures made him fall in love with the country’s ‘[Ennio] Morricone vibe’ – an influence that ended up in the shimmering cocktail of …Love City.
Justin also came dangerously close to calling it a concept album of sorts, before promptly backing out, describing it instead as ‘almost conceptual’; built around the loose, formless theme of ‘Love City’, and what it means for different people. Young also offered up his choice of words on the new record; ‘euphoria’, ‘heavy’ and ‘colourful’. If you ask me, that sounds like one Hell of a suite.
The band also confirmed that following the album’s release week shows (intimate gigs stemming from 8th September to the 16th, taking the band through Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, London and more), the plan is to embark on a bigger, more typical tour down the road; presumably somewhere around early 2022. As Young himself commented, ‘We’re gonna announce something relatively soon for next year’. So, for those in dire need of their vaccination (haha), mark it in your calendars.
And for those who need their first dose just a little earlier, there are still tickets onsale for a standalone gig at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town on July 26th (at least at time of writing; don’t flay me if they’re gone by the time it’s posted, please) – their first gig to actual, physical people in over two years. That will also be biblical, to sound a bit like Liam Gallagher.
So, there you have it, good news for those into indie rock, or fans of 80s-tinged, nostalgic homages speckled in post-punk and guitar. The Vaccines have proven time and time again that they are gods of the indie rock scene, and once more, after all this time, they’ve still got it. I cannot wait for September 10th and the months after, when hopefully we can all – finally – go back to Love City.
And, speaking of the album, if you wish to pre-order Back in Love City, you can here: https://shop.thevaccines.com/
And, supposing you wish to listen to the first two singles from the new record, you can do so on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5L5yf0ri13fsxSkRIfxCvo?si=QP9Stwx4TOaLmxHxIfaBOA&dl_branch=1