It’s been a whirlwind decade since The Vaccines became the most-talked-about new group in the country with their anthemic, coming of age debut, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Since then, it’s been a journey full of ups and downs. In fact, the band had to pick themselves up from a near split in 2016 after founding member Pete Robertson walked out on the group. Back In Love City is the second record from this new era for The Vaccines, following the back-to-basics Combat Sports that got them back on track in 2018, but here is where they truly explore.
The last album felt like a necessity, a moment in which they had to prove a point — to prove their relevancy. Yet, here, they sound more assured of themselves than ever. The Vaccines sound liberated from the moment the record kicks off with the titular song — a freak-out that sets up the scene for the fictional metropolis that we become familiar with over the 13 tracks.
“In some obvious ways, we’re more connected than ever,” Vaccines’ vocalist Justin Hayward-Young commented about the theme of the record. “But we’re also more polarised than we’ve been for 100 years, and the world is getting colder. What if there was a place where love and other emotions had run dry — but you could go to Love City to get them?”
It’s an intriguing concept and allows The Vaccines to lose themselves within their fictional universe, with the dystopian Black Mirror setting ending up being a guise that Hayward-Young uses to his advantage. At the moment, there are endless records from the last eighteen months that epitomise that dark, sorrowful period that is best left to rest. Instead, The Vaccines have made a spritely, lust-filled record that is anything but gloomy.
The first hattrick of tracks from the record showcases the indie stalwarts’ poppier side, something which has always been a thriving part of the DNA. Then the fourth song on Back In Love City, ‘Wanderlust’, kicks in and lulls the audience into a false sense of security as it starts with a Western-style jangly guitar, before erupting into carnage as Hayward-Young cries out for some love.
‘Paranormal Romance’ carries on from where the last track leaves off, and the group’s knack for an infectious melody comes into play as the singer finds himself pleading, “I just want to be your boy”.
It’s not troublesome to reason why The Vaccines have survived when many of their contemporaries have fallen to the wayside, Back In Love City is full of verve, engrossing relatable storytelling. It is the kind of album which isn’t just multiple jumbled up cliches, it is built out of cunning and charisma.
Songs like ‘XCT’ and ‘Jump Off The Top’ are exciting, frivolous, unadulterated bangers that add bundles of energy to the middle of the record, which make them vital additions within the context of Love City, which helps glue these different parts of the group’s identity together.
The album plays out similarly to an evening out on the tiles, with it gradually getting more depraved the longer it goes on and then ending on a rather sombre, heartfelt note.
The penultimate song, ‘Heart Land’, breaks from the album’s loose theme but is still all about love. It sees Hayward-Young take a left turn as he laments the state of a Trumpified America but maintain his affection for the land of hopes and dreams. For context, the group recorded the LP on the American-Mexican border before lockdown, and the authentic circumstances surrounding it seep through.
Back In Love City is a stimulating record, which The Vaccines evidently enjoyed themself making, which translates onto the album. Despite being set in this magical place, it never gets too indulgent or Kubrick-y, and you could enjoy the record without even noticing the thematic aspect. However, for full pleasure and escapism, let your mind take a wander to Love City.