The Vaccines have based their eight-year career on the dubious idea that you can never get sick of a good song – the vast majority of their songs are poppy three-chord three-minute rushes, and their debut album consisted of twelve almost identical songs. Yet the band’s primary audience, teens who can’t wait to be old enough to go to their first Propaganda and think Truck Fest an edgy festival, are getting older and maturing in taste. Combat Sports, therefore, represents the band’s attempt to mature. However, unlike cheese or whisky, The Vaccines do not mature well.
The first few songs of Combat Sports are traditional basic Vaccines songs – Put It on a T-Shirt snuggles warmly in its A, D and Fm with a C# thrown in now and then to spice things up; I Can’t Quit is a barrage of alternating Cs and Fs; later Someone To Lose hops between Bs, C#s and F#s with an almost identical rhythm. The album begins with the bold proclamation that “The Vaccines will not change!”
And then the album changes. Your Love is my Favourite Band drops some of the band’s signature stylistic features for a more generic indie sound, and subsequent songs boot those features out the window. Nightclub and Surfing in the Sky sound like Off With Their Heads-era Kaiser Chiefs, Maybe was found in a time capsule from 20 years ago, and Young American wouldn’t sound out of place as a ballad from an 80s glam rock band. It’s clear that The Vaccines were going for something a little different with Combat Sports, though it’s not clear what. The different sounds used throughout the album land with varying degrees of success, and although each is clearly genetically linked to the band, none of the new sounds seem linked to each other. A Vaccines 80s ballad is fine, and a Vaccines noughties indie song is fine, but side-by-side they don’t seem to make much sense.
Despite this weird limbo the band has stepped into – or been dragged into by the slow agony of time – the album is fun, fast and only thirty minutes long. If anything is a certain truth in life it is that The Vaccines have boundless amounts of energy, and Combat Sports wears this fact like a superhero suit. Nearly every song is exciting, and by the end of the album it becomes clear that the more traditionally Vaccines songs are the weak elements. It’s just a shame the band couldn’t start their marc