The British quartet The Vaccines were being clever when they named their 2011 debut "What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?" But who knew it would become their calling card?
The "Teenage Icon" band's third album, "English Graffiti" (Columbia), is truly an unexpected twist in their career, seemingly embracing styles that they were rebelling against when they started out.
The opener and first single, "Handsome," is actually exactly what we would expect from The Vaccines -- a two-minute-plus blast of catchy, thumping guitar-rock that streamlines The Strokes and modernizes The Ramones as Justin Hayward-Young tosses out gems like "Thank the Lord above that I am pretty."
But The Vaccines follow that with the big, bloated "Dream Lover," which sounds like it could have been built by a prog rock band from the mid-'80s, and the flighty "Minimal Affection," which seems to be a cross between Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill" and Duran Duran's "Union of the Snake."
The gear shifting is disconcerting, especially when The Vaccines seem so ready to ramp up the energy, on songs like "20/20," which is another charming slice of Brit pop revved up to a punk pace, or the thrilling "Radio Bikini," which sounds so much like a lost Ramones classic you would swear it was dug up from a Forest Hills basement.
Maybe the biggest surprise, though, is "Maybe I Could Hold You," which could actually position The Vaccines for a run on American pop radio, as the British version of Maroon 5. The song is so on-trend, picking up the moodiness of The Weeknd while remaining rhythm driven. All it needs is a rap cameo from Lil Wayne or Snoop Dogg.
The Vaccines are clearly looking to expand their horizons on "English Graffiti" and they certainly succeed on that account, even if their energies may have been better spent on honing a more focused vision.
THE GRADE B