It’s Friday in North London on the hottest day of the year, and the indie children of the noughties are queuing for a party. Scenesters so young they were born after Kurt Cobain died are dressed in unwitting tribute: long hair, flannel shirts, baseball jackets, Converse. These kids are excited, but Camden couldn’t care less. Down by the lock punks still sweat and swear, thin lips kissing cider cans, cigarettes, each other. Somewhere nearby a cork pops, the weekend is toasted and clumsy birthday wishes are exchanged. It’s Friday in North London on the hottest day of the year and on balconies and in bars, on street corners and in side alleys, everybody is drinking.
Outside the Electric Ballroom the kids sip lager and wait. Above them, gummed to the side of a building at the bottom of Chalk Farm Road, an 18 foot tall girl in a white tee-shirt poses with her arms around a boy. She is shy, not looking at her companion or the camera and her eyes are fixed at a point far away in the middle distance. It’s a good picture and a fitting album cover – attractive, well framed, non-committal. I look again at the billboard flogging the wares of tonight’s entertainment and wonder, not for the first time, just what to expect from The Vaccines.
Nobody I know can make up their minds. ‘Underpowered and overhyped – they’re the new Magic Numbers’ claims one. ‘One of the best new bands I’ve heard’ claims another. Both of them are half right – the going on their first album is good, occasionally great in patches. There are bouncy summer songs about surfing and bouncy summer songs about girls, but even at 35 minutes it drags in parts and feels much more meagre than, say, Is This It. There’s an absence of wit in the lyrics, and the music is not, whatever an excitable journalist might tell you, comparable with anything written by The Ramones.
I take my preconceptions inside, where the opening notes of Under Your Thumb ring out. The kids jump around and so do the band. Both look like they’re here for a good time but not a long time, and my companions start to get swept up in it. Wreckin’ Bar and If You Wanna are the highlights of their album and, unsurprisingly, the highlights of their set. Between song banter is a little strained though grateful, Blow it Up doesn’t honour its name and Nørgaard, (a song about lusting over a seventeen year old girl who “probably isn’t ready”) would sound exciting if it wasn’t uncomfortably creepy.
It’s Friday in North London on the hottest day of the year. The plaid-clad kids go home happy, the jaded, paunchy hacks have their half-prejudices confirmed and the punks by the lock don’t care either way. Fun in parts but forgettable in others…what more did we expect from The Vaccines?
Words: Tom Bage
Pictures: Dan Aitch
The Camden Store Team X