It’s a return to form for The Vaccines in a fourth album that sees the five-piece head back to their roots. Combat Sports follows a three-year hiatus and is a reinvigorated simplified rock record that possesses the energy of What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? only with added production value.
English Graffiti and Come of Age were not bad albums as such, they just failed to recapture the raw energy and punk ethos featured in the debut. While they should be credited for trying to evolve, they failed to retain the magic which made them so good in the first place. However, The Vaccines have managed to recapture this magic for Combat Sports.
“It sort of builds on the musicality of English Graffiti, but I think there’s a lot more of spirit and energy from What Did You Expect… We’re in the studio every day playing together, so it feels a lot more like a band again, which maybe English Graffiti stopped slightly. I guess it replenishes some of that spirit and that energy of the first record,” explained frontman Justin Hayward-Young.
Opener ‘Put It On a T-Shirt’ is an explosive start in which catchy hooks hit you straight away from a track that is the group of old, only with more of a stadium feel. First single ‘I Can’t Quit’ then arrives in a stomping return to form that should make for a terrific live showing.
Despite its awful title, ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ explores synth-pop territory and is one of the album’s best compositions, which shows that they can still retain their earlier punk magic but with a touch of modern indie. The same goes for ‘Surfing In The Sky’. However, ‘Maybe (Luck of the Draw)’ fails to achieve the same level of quality in what is a repetitive synth-led piece.
The listener is then dragged back and alerted for ‘Nightclub’ in what is the most ferocious and absorbing song The Vaccines have ever put their name to. Pulsating riffs, reverberating bass and motoric drums mould together to create a storming two and half minute track before the pace and energy is retained for ‘Out On the Street’ as the album reaches its peak.
Swirling guitars then arrive for the terrific ‘Take It Easy’ before the catchy ‘Someone To Lose’ grabs your attention with its catchy hook. Proceedings are finally brought to a close with the epic ‘Rolling Stones’, which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
As the title of their debut implied, The Vaccines are never going to change the world with their music. However, their catchy guitar riffs, infectious melodic explorations and punishing rhythmic core has a place in today’s indie-rock landscape. Add in Young’s neat and intelligent lyricisms and you have the recipe for a great rock ‘n’ roll band. This is exactly what The Vaccines are and Combat Sport goes some way to placing them back up on the top table. The back-to-basics approach has served them very well.