The Vaccines – live review

The Vaccines
Manchester Ritz
April 3rd 2011

Vaccines Myspace

full length Vaccines interview here!

The wall of sound is one of the classic staples of great pop. Phil Spector invented it in the late fifties and shackled it for his girl groups- great echo drenched melodramatic songs of love, sex and death. Two decades later The Ramones deceptively simplified it into their classic buzzsaw, cranked surf guitar assault that created the template for punk as well as the chassis for their own pure pop melodies. In the eighties Jesus And Mary the Chain combined the two for their dark ride on the pure pop mashed with flick knife noise ride.

The Vaccines are in love with this- the power of the noise, the thrill of the chainsaw guitar, the magic of the drama of the guitar stripped bare or chiming in the set’s quieter, more studied moments. This is a music that is drenched with that beautiful noise and sheer emotion that somehow creates it’s own version from treasured records. Girl band pop is pop’s purest statement- the Smiths knew this, so did the New York Dolls- if you want pure raw emotion and the highs and lows of sex and the perfect seven inch of the pop moment then this is your treasure trove. The Vaccines understand this. Implicitly.

It’s their celebration of the wonder of the big sound that really has hit paydirt.

There’s something quite magical about the success of The Vaccines. They way they seemed to come from nowhere. The way they released one of those perfect pop singles, ‘Wrecking Bar Ra Ra Ra’- a rush of mangled guitar noise and too fast to live vocals that captured the eternal now that is at the heart of great pop and dared to make it work.

The fast track has never seemed faster!

Whilst many squeal, ”˜hype’, ”˜fix’ and ”˜not fair’ in those endless anonymous internet forum debates the band have become the moment. It’s actually been quite exhilarating watching them come from nowhere to a number one album- that’s part of the thrill of British music, the thrill of a music scene that is in constant flux where everything is modern.

Onstage at the sold out Ritz in Manchester the band are soundtracking that optimistic flush of youth- that hands in the air, spectral rush of noise and pop thrills. Their super short songs (ninety seconds and counting!) are perfect pop for now people- the fresh faced, well scrubbed, mainly student youth surfing on the big fat wave of guitar sound.

Steeped in the drama and the emotion of classic girl group pop- the purest and most emotive pop music ever made and the brevity of the Ramones and US hardcore as well as anorak indie and fifties rock n roll- this a perfect guitar band. Somehow, though, they transcend these influences and make their own version, finding their own space.

There is a beautiful naivety to the band that is far away from the naysayers who claim it’s all a cynical jape in indie rock.

The Vaccines have a purity that the cynics will always miss. They are very much heart on their sleeve, emotion driven, guitar rock n roll dealing in great swooning anthems. ”˜Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’, is a rush, ”˜If You Wanna’ is a thrill and their cover of Minor Threat’s version of the Standells classic ”˜Good Guys Don’t Wear White’ is a neat nod to key influences and threads the decades of great guitar rock n roll into one defiant statement.

Justin Young is the classic gangling English frontman- all flailing limbs and angular awkwardness- he also possesses a big voice, a big, powerful, brooding baritone that is perfect for the reverb swamped songs. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his emotive honesty and passion is one of the keys to the band’s success. Stage right Freddie Cowan, the brother of a Horror is a razor-sharp rhythm guitar player who looks like a super cool cousin of the Clash’s Mick Jones, with the same kind of jerking cool-moves as the Clashman. Stage left Anri Hjorvar has a fat, elastic bass sound that underpins the huge wall of sound.

And wall of sound is the key- this is the bastard grandson of Phil Spector- pure pop for now, updated for the 21st century with the buoyant optimism of the fifties and the moshpit brevity of classic seventies punk as well as the intensity of early American hardcore like Minor Threat.

Critics may harp on about retro but what they don’t get is the band’s contemporary twist, the way they surf the uncertainty of these times but somehow also capture that heady rush of youth, that eternal optimism of the endless revolution summer, that confused rush of youth when love and lust and broken hearts are all mashed together in the tidal wave of pure guitar noise.


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  1. Have you listened to Funeral Party’s “Golden Age of Knowhere”? I love it and can’t stop listening to it!

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