By: Sarah MacDonald –
Is every twenty-something going through a very public, collective existential moment? Apparently they can’t (and maybe aren’t going to) get it together. But that’s okay because the struggle is part of life and musicians are exactly the kind of people to point out that no one has any clue about what is going on.
British indie rock darlings The Vaccines tap into that feeling on their sophomore release Come of Age. Their debut What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? sounded sassy, jaded and influenced by Sheffield wunderkind’s Arctic Monkeys, kings of indifference, The Strokes, and anything from ‘50s pop melodies to contemporary hardcore. Their brand of noisy garage rock looked as though they were saving rock music from spiralling down and down into a pit of repackaged nonsense. With the release of Come of Age, everyone can calm down: rock music is going to thrive.
Or is it? The popularity of the twenty-something breakdown is holding steady. Look at HBO’s Girls and heaps of blogs and Tumblrs and tweets and lame Facebook statuses everywhere dedicated to the what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life sentiment. We have no idea. This is aptly captured on the fast paced first track of Come of Age titled “No Hope.”
In spite of that dreary thought, it is the perfect song to set the tone of the album and the feeling of a generation, as Justin Young so appropriately sings “giving the voice to a generation.” Young sings over chaotic, yet extremely calculated guitar rhythms and pithy drumbeats of narcissism, ignorance, and fear of not really knowing that comes next. It was the first single off the record and is the best of the bunch.
“Weirdo” captures that same mood of feeling like an outcast, or as Young sings in his slick Morrissey-esque tone “I know I’m neurotic and hard to please.” With the track “Teenage Icon” Young sneers at the idea of being someone uber special. We get stuck in the idea of having to be something, like every twenty-something has to contribute a handful of awesome before really being anything at all. It’s a struggle to exist with expectations.
“I Wish I Was A Girl” is the one track that stalls. It’s a sweet sentiment to sing the praises of women and how they’re all mysterious, seductive beasts of amazing, but the lyrics are layered in a one-sided view on the experience women face. Young sings of a woman “gliding through the door in [her] haute couture,” which, in their experience of models (Amanda Norgaard) and other aesthetically pleasing looking creatures, seems like what the life of a woman is about. But it’s not. Although they may wish to be girls because it is somehow better than being a man or the experience of being a man at this age, look instead at the other reasons to be a girl than aesthetics.
The album’s Closing track “Lonely World” is their final lament on the loneliness of being and simply existing at 25 years of age. Young sounds like he’s shouting, pleading with someone about how lonely it is. Even the solemn guitar solo sounds sad and weary.
It is a beautifully crafted record that exposes the flaws and trip-ups inherent in young people. Dance, feel like nothing, get up and do something and dance again to this record. When we’re past the getting-it-together-and-figuring-out-portion of life, maybe we’ll look fondly upon the time when records like this helped us survive.