The Vaccines: What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? (2011)

The nice thing about growing old, and being relatively disconnected from any discernible music scene, is that when you hear a new album you can decide whether or not you enjoy it on its own merits.  When I stumbled across the Vaccines' 2011 debut, I wasn't clear whether I was supposed to be in their thrall as the Next Big Thing, or avoid them on general principles as an over-hyped Return Of Guitar Rock phenomenon.  I just know that I really liked the album.  Still do.

I know it's a bit of a simplification, but I suppose they slot in as another post-Jesus & Mary Chain UK guitar band -- classic surf & pop tunes amped up to 10 behind a wall of feedback and/or reverb.  But they rise above a lot of bands in that box thanks to the high ratio of hugely catchy tracks.  Sure, "If You Wanna" is the most obvious example, three minutes of pure unadulterated pop joy, with a clever twist on post-break-up obsession and a chorus that drills itself into your head and will not leave, try as you might.  But the super-quick and kinda-gross ode to young model Amanda Norgaard is no less fabulous, unbelievable ear candy, as is party-rocking opening track "Wreckin' Bar" and the chipper "Under Your Thumb."  And the high points aren't limited to the poppy upbeat tracks; slower grooves like "Wetsuit," "Blow It Up" and "A Lack of Understanding" are no less compelling.

I'm less high on the kitschy "Post Break Up Sex," which gets a little too close to the line between clever and cloying, but there's no denying it's got a killer hook.

The whole thing is held together by vocalist Justin Young's smooth, charismatic baritone, lending an occasional Joy Division vibe (if Ian Curtis had listened to a lot more bubblegum music growing up).

Later albums saw the band stretching out a bit and mixing up their sound, but I stand by the debut as one of the albums most deserving of "return of the electric guitar" accolades in the slick ProTools era. 

Here's the "If You Wanna" video:
And, yep, "Norgaard":
And "Wreckin' Bar":
And finally a live "Wetsuit":