Among the album releases this week, the much anticipated sophomore LP by The Vaccines, Come Of Age, is a courageous and triumphant progression from their break-through debut album, released last year, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Overall, Come Of Age is more colorful and sentimental than the band’s debut. The first half of Come Of Age is a blast, with The Vaccines channeling the vigor and pop-rock perfection of The Strokes, and at other times, unleashing a fast-driving, blazing wall of guitar rock reminiscent of bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines with well-honed vocals and tight, bold melodies. It’s songs like the Dylanesque opener, “No Hope,” the anthemic, surf rock blog-hit, “Teenage Icon,” the adrenaline-charged burn of “All in Vain” and “Ghost Town,” and the unabashed ’70s pop glory of “I Always Knew” (think Cheap Trick) that make Come Of Age a sassy and exciting sophomore release from the young band.
While the first half of the album is the most memorable, songs like the crisp, Ramones-style punk rockers, “Bad Mood” and “Change of Heart, Part 2” are the stand-out tracks of the second half of the album. But the track, “Weirdo,” is a complete dud that should have been left off the album altogether; it completely interrupts the flow and groove of the album. Finally, the album closer, “Lonely World,” which drudges up a darker side of teenage emotion and confusion, sounds so different from the rest of the songs on the album that it could almost be mistaken for a track from The Walkmen. Overall, we give Come Of Age an 8 out of 10, only because songs like the mid-point doozy, “Weirdo” and “I Wish I Was a Girl” fall flat and break up the roaring momentum of the first half of the album; otherwise, we would have given the album a 8.5 or 9.
Reaction from the music press has been mostly positive. Mojo observed: “They may be musical magpies but what they build from their stash is gold,” while NME added: “Come Of Age breezes through their awkward teenage phase with ease,” and Uncut said: “The Ethan Johns-produced follow-up sees their punky, Spectorish pop continue to evolve.” Clash wrote that the band’s sophomore release “is a brave and stunning progression that now solidifies the statement that this group can grow past 2011 without going stale.”
We do, to varying degrees, agree with some critics who complain the record has “nothing to say” (Pitchfork), and UK critics who assert that Come Of Age falls short of being a blockbuster second release (The Guardian), or that it lacks originality (The Independent – Sunday). However, suggestions that Come Of Age needs to have a powerful, coherent, over-arching message, or that it should somehow fulfill some “bid for world domination” (The Guardian) come off as presumptuous and petty criticisms, failing to overshadow the simple fact that, musically, it’s an enjoyable and noteworthy second effort. We think, there are at least four to five songs from Come Of Age that people will remember and play years from now. If it had been released three months earlier, Come Of Age (minus a few songs) would have been one of the best summertime albums of 2012, especially considering that it was a rather disappointing summer for spectacular new albums compared to summers of the past few years.
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Note: Our second favorite album of the week is The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth. It was a very close second. More on that coming up.