Album number three brings back some of the more grunge and gruff tunes that we were all enjoying when WHAT DID YOU EXPECT… was released in 2011. Given the band had only come to be five years ago, three albums and multiple tours have expanded the band fanbase to a huge level very quickly. ENGLISH GRAFFITI is a rock feast with a lot of power and gusto to boot!
Starting off with ‘Handsome’, the first single from ENGLISH GRAFFITI, it is an infectious rock tune which is short and sweet. ‘Dream Lover’ harkens back to the COME OF AGE sound, though the distorted guitar work brings a grunge feel for 2015. A rougher sound works better from this band, COME OF AGE felt a bit too polished for what they wanted to make. ‘Minimal Affection’ is fun, the chords themselves are attracting and the lyrics fit perfectly. The band does seem to take influence from the 80’s with ‘20/20’ and ‘(All Afternoon) In Love’ makes you go “are The Vaccines attempting a ballad?”. Well, it kind of is. Though not exactly a full on swoon, it is remarkably different to any track by The Vaccines, and there is nothing wrong with going a bit more mellow and heartfelt now and again.
‘Denial’ brings back the rock factor, which almost makes me wish for the band to now have gone into dubstep territory or maybe even hip-hop (ok that may be a bit too far, but they can do a ballad well). Guitar heavy ‘Want You So Bad’ sees multiple distortions of their stringed axes and this then goes into overdrive when ‘Radio Bikini’ explodes. It is far too heavy on distortion, I like the effect for a lot of this album but this just makes me sound like I had this on a cassette tape and have played it over a thousand times. Luckily the album takes a positive swing as ‘Maybe I Could Hold You’ has a clearer delivery, and a helpful clap which you will certain join in with. ‘Give Me A Sign’, I almost thought was a rock version of ‘Give It Up’ by KC & The Sunshine Band, when you hear the intro you will see why. This again feels like a clear track, minimal distort on this song goes a long way. Seeing as the track comes down and then punches it way back up, it certainly does pump you up. Finally, ‘Undercover’ slowly creeps up and after 30 seconds is then audible. The sound of instrument tracks being reversed and its overall melody sounds like a closure for the album which ends a collection of songs which was appealing and different.
This is a great release overall. The only main problem is the distortion throughout. The majority of time it works as a benefit, sometimes it can just get on your nerves. As mentioned, one track is very much difficult to listen to. Also, Justin Hayward-Young may just have one of the most versatile voices in music today, and can sometimes make you wonder whether or not he is singing on the track. Could I compare this to another release? No. Is this the best sound The Vaccines? Probably not, though I do want to say this is probably the most consistent album to come from them. It may not beat the unexpected beast that was WHAT DID YOU EXPECT… but you will certainly love this album, even forgiving the times when you can hardly make out what the words are or the tunes that are actually being created. Finally, I am a great fan of the band and open to new experiences (and enjoyed ENGLISH GRAFFITI a lot), but please use less distortion for album four!
Final rating: 8/10
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove