Sometime in the autumn of 2010, the Vaccines pretty much came out of nowhere. And suddenly, in the UK music scene, they were everywhere. By the beginning of last year, they were on the cover of NME with the headline “The Return of the Great British Guitar Band.” They placed third in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll, played around the UK with the NME Awards Tour, and were nominated for an MTV Award for “Best New Band of 2011.” And all of this happened on the strength of just two singles.
If this is all too much to resist, check them out for yourself tonight in Taipei, when the Vaccines play at Legacy. The concert comes as part of a new music series by the Hong Kong promoters Untitled Entertainment, which is trying to string together concert tours through Southeast Asia and introduce hot indie bands even as they are still breaking into the scene.
The Vaccines are indeed a young band, now formed just over two years ago and with all four members in their early 20s. Lead singer and guitarist Justin Young used to perform as an alt-folk troubadour under the name of Jay Jay Pistolet, and the band’s other guitarist, Freddie Cowan, is the younger brother of Tom Cowan, who plays in the slightly more established and similarly noisy indie group, The Horrors. (The Horrors will also play at Legacy next week, on Feb. 17.)
The media blitz that has so far surrounded the Vaccines has drawn comparisons to the debuts of Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. The Guardian called it “the kind of hyperbole that hits British pop once or twice a decade.” The band even seemed to take a preemptive shot at all the hype with the title of its first album, So What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?, released in March last year.
What: The Vaccines, with Mary See the Future
When: 8pm tonight
Where: Legacy Taipei (傳音樂展演空間), Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), Center Five Hall (中五館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
Tickets: NT$1,450 at the door
Part of the reason behind the expectations may be that this is a guitar band, and British music media certainly has a hardened old-school clique of “rockist” critics and music editors who are always ready to tout punk-tinged bands as the next big thing.
The Vaccines’ sound harkens back to the noisy guitars of the Jesus and Mary Chain. The band compares well to other middle-class Brit guitar bands like Arctic Monkeys or British Sea Power. (There has been a mild debate on whether it matters that they are “posh.”)
The band’s second single Post Break-up Sex charted well in the UK and is the kind of well-crafted song that probably won’t be extremely long-lived, but still hits a nice balance between being totally dumb and believably earnest: “Post break-up sex/that helps you forget your ex/What did you expect from post break-up sex?”
Expect the song early on in the Vaccine’s set in Taipei, as it is a bit of a sing-along. For the closer, they generally rock out on the much faster punk tune Norgaard.
Justin Sweeting, the music director at Untitled Entertainment, said he booked the band because the music invariably “gets people going. They pretty much guarantee a good time,” he said.
After seeing the band at SXSW last year, as well as in several European festivals, Sweeting further credits the group with potential to crossover from rock to pop audiences.
“The fact that they’ve managed to break into something akin to a more mainstream audience is an accomplishment in itself. They’re introducing new generations of fans to the live band sound which bodes well for the future,” he said.