The Vaccines have always made a concerted effort to create the most timeless version of garage rock. For their third album, English Graffiti, the British group went completely in the opposite direction. Enlisting two producers, Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT) and Cole M. Greif-Neill (Beck, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti), The Vaccines cover the experimental spectrum with Fridmann’s traditional approach and Greif-Neill’s modern one. The idea is to create an album that sounds good right now, but does not necessarily last past the immediate impact.
English Graffiti has multiple personalities—a contemporary characteristic of a single-based rather than album-driven music world. And for an album meant to be of today, it jumps around decades, musical styles, and delivers mixed messages. English Graffiti kicks off like a revving motorcycle with singer Justin Hayward-Young’s taunting cry, which sounds like he could be yelling “batter batter batter” on repeat, but he’s really prepping listeners for the declaration that he is “Handsome.” This is the warm-up for “Dream Lover,” a track that swaggers like Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ version of “I Love Rock ’N’ Roll” but with a slower roll and sonar twinkles. The Ramones are channeled on “Radio Bikini” with its punk-y bounce and bizarrely, Foreigner’s emotive synthesizer arena rock is what comes to mind when listening to “Give Me A Sign.”
Synthesized sounds are prevalent on English Graffiti, particularly space-like on “Minimal Affection,” a rounded ’80s number bubbling with digital fun. Ricocheting through time, one of the few love songs on the album is the lo-fi, ’50s, organ-driven “(All Afternoon) In Love.” Its companion piece, the creeping, digital “Want You So Bad,” plays like a Kasabian stomper slowed way down.
All this jumping around on English Graffiti doesn’t make it disjointed. Rather, it stops the album from becoming monotonous with a new, unexpected experience on each track.