Album Review: Back in Love City // The Vaccines

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Ten years on from their debut album, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?, English indie rock band The Vaccines return with a collection of weird and wonderful songs which make up their latest album, Back In Love City.

Five albums in and the band are trying something new — a concept record. After sticking to their indie-rock formula for years, it is only natural that the band have headed in a new direction. Inspired by the desperation for human connection (which has only increased over the last year or so) the band transports us to Love City, on a musical search for love and emotion that the world is devoid of.

Unlike its indie rock predecessors, Back In Love City is a genre-bending album, covering indie-rock, electronic and pop styles. While, in many ways, their latest release feels like a return to the band’s indie-rock roots, it also marks a distinct evolution from their humble beginnings. It is more narrative, visual, and visceral than anything The Vaccines have produced before.

The record opens with the title song ‘Back In Love City’, an introduction to so-called Love City complete with jangly guitar, thumping drums, and playful lyrical form: “I drink to drown my sorrows / but they always learn to swim”. The track builds slowly, before bursting into a confident, high-energy chorus. An infectious beat coupled with Justin Young’s confident vocals make it a Vaccines track through and through. The repeated refrain “we can’t buy love  ‘cause we spent it all on you” is simple, yet destined to be sung by a crowd of devoted and new fans – now that live music has made its triumphant return.

Follow-up singles ‘Alone Star’ and ‘Headphones Baby’ are equally energetic. The former is laced with trumpets, rolling surf guitar, and the assuring refrain “you are not alone”, the latter a thumping, euphoric anthem which builds upon what their previous album Combat Sports explored. 

The fourth song ‘Wanderlust’ lulls the listener in with Western-style guitar before erupting into chaos as Young cries out “Sometimes I get so low that my friends say I’ve gone caving/ But when it’s just the two of us I feel fucking amazing”. ‘Paranormal Romance’ picks up where the last track left off, showcasing the band’s typically catchy melodies.

The Western feel set by the previous track continues on ‘El Paso’ – the kind of song that is sure to go down well with packed stadiums and crowded festivals. The band goes back to their roots with ‘Jump Off The Top’, a fast-paced track with soaring guitars, loud drums, and engaging melodies.

Beginning the second half of the album, ‘XCT’ is manic and full of rage, Young’s vocals not soft but roaring, commanding the listener’s attention. ‘Bandit’ is an electric guitar-filled song, calmer than the previous track whilst maintaining the effortless sound. ‘People’s Republic of Desire’ starts off slow but gradually builds, a mingling of loud guitar, fast-paced drums, and captivating vocals.

‘Savage’ is a showcase of how far the band are prepared to go musically, as the synth-driven song feels worlds away from their roots.

Where the rest of the album is full of roaring laments and harsh instrumentals, the final two tracks ‘Heart Lands’ and ‘Pink Water Pistols’ are softer, somber offerings, which allow the listener to appreciate Young’s moody and melodic vocals. The dreamy melody of the final track lingers then comes to an abrupt stop, symbolising the fact that the listener’s journey to Love City is over.

It is clear that the band enjoyed making this album, resulting in tracks that simultaneously feels otherworldly and rooted in the anxiety and nervousness we’ve all felt over the last year or so. It is pure pleasure and escapism, a step in a different direction for the band but one that has most certainly paid off.

Words by Jen Rose.


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