West London's indie rock quartet The Vaccines released their sixth studio album Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations today, on the twelfth of January, about two and a half years after their fifth release, Back in Love City. For the band's sixth outing, frontman Justin Hayward-Young concocted the tunes from his residence in Los Angeles, with the sunny LA sky seemingly beaming through the tracks. Hayward-Young found the fate brought to many British pop and rock acts finding themselves writing their tunes beneath the American West Coast’s sunny skies, as opposed to Britain's more notorious gray and ominous skies. The carefree, musical attitude of West Coast rockers seeped its way into the newest release by The Vaccines.
Once again, The Vaccines have made the statement that they are an indie-pop troupe before anything else, creating concise, infectious songs, all under four minutes. For traditional indie rock fans, the rather modest use of guitar may be a bit of a letdown, but longtime Vaccines fans would probably tell you that a heavy guitar presence was never really in the cards for them. The nostalgic guitar use, tied into a pop format of old-school British indie troupes like The Smiths or The Stone Roses, or even post-2000 groups like The Libertines, is not all that present on Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations, but it wasn’t expected to be. Instead, the band focused on hammering out the best pop songs they could muster, using the guitar as a secondary attribute. When you have a gifted vocalist like Justin Hayward-Young, you can do that to an incredibly pleasing extent.
At least to our ears here at Melophobe, the shining star of the record is the fifth track Primitive Man, which was not released as a single prior to release. On this track, Hayward-Young sings to the heavens with post-production turning his mic down (or perhaps turning the band up) on the powerful choruses leaving listeners with yet another Vaccines ear worm that ought to live on past whatever hype this record kicks off with. Momentous guitar playing, and metronomic drumming propel Justin’s words towards the sky before the band drops a simplistic, yet spot on guitar solo.
Alongside Primitive Man, Love To Walk Away (which was released as a single) introduces a California surf rock guitar sound to the tune of Dick Dale, The Ventures, or any of the American ‘60s surf rock troupes. Once again, Justin belts it to the heavens on the choruses, leaving listeners yearning for the California sun and the energy it injects into musicians. Those listeners anticipating the album were drawn the most to the record’s lead-off single, Heartbreak Kid. Of all the tracks on the record, this one is likely to be the favorite for fans of COIN, Bad Suns, or Hunny, sounding the most ‘80s (and not in the style of The Smiths) of the tracks on the album. Regardless, the song is certainly a good one.
Thirteen years after their debut, which we still consider their finest release, the band still has their groove. This newest release is 31 minutes of dopamine, even though the lyrics mainly deal with somber elements of heartbreak. The lyrical delivery, paired with the musical accompaniment behind Hayward-Young, results in a bright, reverb-laced, energetic LP, masking the often melancholic lyrics. There's not too much profundity here, but what did you expect from The Vaccines? Nothing here makes me think the album was meant to be anything other than a catchy release designed to put listeners in a good headspace, and if that was indeed the goal of the band, then they have succeeded. It will be interesting to see how this record ages and whether it turns out to be one of the better indie-pop records of 2024, but for now, it's a good album, worth listening to. If you do plan on giving it a spin, prepare to add a few of these tracks to your summery, dopamine-dripping playlists.