The Vaccines – Combat Sports Review

Three years ago, The Vaccines jumped on the synth-pop bandwagon with their release of English Graffiti, channelling the idea that the pining for eighties euphoria in indie groups was a winning formula. Not true; their third LP was a bit of a flop. Now, three years and two new bandmates later, the West London five-piece release an album reminiscent of their garage-guitar days, and is perhaps better than the initial sound that bought them their ticket to the bigtime. Welcome to Combat Sports.

Songs like Nightclub, Surfing in the Sky and Out On The Streets exemplify why Combat Sports is Come of Age sat on a red-hot flame. Sharp, clean guitar reigns, with thrashing chords topped with lyrics ready to be roared at festivals. The energy that bubbles in these tracks incite much more thrill than English Graffiti ever did. It reaches further into the Britpop era than anything else, with the stock British vocals bellowing brazen lyrics, but moulds the genre, adding fire to the tracks to make them all the more arena-worthy.

Despite the frequent growl of guitar, there are some softer numbers. Opener Put It On A T-Shirt recalls the no-nonsense indie of their earlier material most, with the more aggressive tones coming towards the end. Maybe (Luck of The Draw) precedes Young American. The former of the two reflects the Melody Calling EP’s twinkle, with piercing riffs and an ethereal sound. The lyrics are simpler – much like the overall track – but more heartfelt, and by no means boring. The latter is a seductive acoustic track that could easily have been a song Morrissey side-lined for his most recent release. The most stripped back on the album, it provides a nice break from the layers of heavy instrumentalism before jumping straight to Nightclub.

The shining star of the album, however, is I Can’t Quit; a stellar example of indie pop that glows without the over-use of synth. A track mostly whittled down to basics is the most fun, with lyrics that are completely infectious and hooks that are nowhere near genius but buoys a song that is effortlessly entertaining.

Combat Sports is exuberant, it’s clever, but also one of the most straightforward rock records I’ve heard in a while. Probably the best thing The Vaccines have ever done.

The Vaccines – Combat Sports: 9/10

Ellie Chivers

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