Their fourth album ‘Combat Sports’ is the sound of one of the defining British rock and roll bands of their generation at full throttle, setting aside pop experiments and concentrating on what caused the rabid excitement at their arrival in 2010.
‘Combat Sports’ was born of troubled times. The band ended the campaign for their third album, ‘English Graffiti’, in a mess. Members of the band had lifestyle issues and health issues. They were also questioning themselves and their music: although it had been a No 2 hit in the UK, The Vaccines knew what the audience wanted – and what they loved playing – was rock and roll.
A key moment in Young realising the power of rock and roll came on a night out in a Los Angeles bar. It’s something he remembers vividly, seeing how a great guitar band could set a room alight. “The DJ played ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’, and all the girls in there were dancing so intensely to it. I thought: ‘Fuck! I remember why I love the Buzzcocks – for these really sad, forlorn, dumb, catchy songs.’ And I realised rock and roll was sexy again. I’d forgotten it could be sexy.”
Through late 2016, they realised they didn’t want to be a three-piece. So Lanham and Intonti (session musicians) were made full members of the band, which reinvigorated the group. “You remember how lucky you’ve been – you start getting excited for the new guys experiencing things for the first time, and it breathes new life into the group. The shows in summer 2016 [at the Reading and Leeds festivals] were fucking amazing, and we bottled that feeling.”
The album goes back to what the Vaccines were all about in the first place: brash, bold, rock and roll songs that mix melancholy and euphoria. That defiance is reflected in the album’s title ‘Combat Sports’, as “love is a combat sport. Friendship is a combat sport. Mental health is a combat sport. But there is so much hope and positivity in the melody, and in our love affair with music, too.