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The Vaccines


On the face of it, The Vaccines seemed like the ultimate NME band: a bawdy, swaggering Brit rock band with a definite article and a deep devotion to nonchalance. Dig deeper though, and the layers start to unfurl revealing short, sharp indie rock songs built on a solid foundation of rock n’ roll’s greatest songwriters, from Alex Chilton to Bob Dylan, Gene Clark to Jonathan Richman.

The band formed as a quartet in London in 2009, made up of Justin Young (vocals, guitar), Freddie Cowan (guitar), Árni Árnason (bass) and Pete Robertson (drums). Signed to Columbia after just a few gigs, their debut single Post Break-Up Sex arrived in early 2011 and drew comparisons to The Strokes, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and The Jesus & Mary Chain. A swirling tempest of hype surrounded their debut album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, leading to something of a backlash from indie purists.

The Vaccines shifted tack with their follow-up, recording with much-vaunted producer Ethan Johns (Counting Crows, Jayhawks, Tom Jones) and displaying a sound that leaned away from the swaggering rock du jour and instead embraced ’60s pop and electrified Dylanisms.

The band followed this muse all the way to their Dave Friedmann-produced third album English Graffiti, which ran the gamut from nitro-fuelled Beach Boys takes likes Radio Bikini to the stomping synth glam of Dream Lover.

By now, The Vaccines had shed any illusion of wanting to be the next Libertines and were instead gradually winning over doubters. The Guardian had been somewhat sniffy about their first two albums but raved about English Graffiti and its 2018 follow-up Combat Sports, which also marked the debut of new keyboardist Timothy Lanham.

Another line-up change followed, with Pete Robertson leaving and Yoann Intonti joining. Now a quintet, The Vaccines returned in 2021 with Back In Love City, which melted together shimmying disco and country rock in an unexpectedly potent neon-coloured cocktail.

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