I'm very torn with this album. I want to like it. I really want to like it. But I'm not there yet. I have heard it 4 times from start to finish, and while there are elements that are great, it's not grabbing me. I love the packaging though. More on that later...
Younger Brother are made up primarily of Simon Posford (known for Hallucinogen and Shpongle), and Benji Vaughn (known for Prometheus). When they got together, they wanted to do something that couldn't be classified. They are often bucketed in with psychadelic trance, or psytrance, but I wouldn't call it psychadelic. It can move you if you are free of distractions, and when cranked will make you bop your head.
Their previous 2 albums are brilliant. They have strong beats, highly technical production, multiple layers, and something you won't find on the radio. The first album (A Flock of Beeps) was composed primarily on computers and from interviews, it seemed to be what they could do with the technology they had at the time. As technology progressed, there was more that they could do, so for their second album (The Last Days of Gravity) it became a mix of the purely electronic stuff with some songs having guitars, a live drummer, and some vocals. I wasn't a huge fan of "Ribbon on a Branch", primarily because it sounded more like something that they wanted to be popular, so they softened it down and added vocals. They clearly must have liked it though, since the guest singer on that track (Ru Campbell) is now an official band member of Younger Brother. Which brings me to the album "Vaccine."
I was so excited when Younger Brother announced they were releasing another album. I pre-ordered it from amazon.co.uk as soon as it became available for order since it was going to be released in the UK 2 weeks prior to the US. I figured it would take 3-4 days to arrive, well before the US release (more on that later). I started checking out all the info on the internet about the production of the album. One interview that struck me odd was a discussion about the progression of the band. Benji Vaughn talked about how they didn't want to do the same thing that was done before. They didn't want to do the usual 4/4 beat tracks like previously, and that this was the next logical step for the band. They also discussed how they wanted to be more of a band, rather than people behind computers. Benji actually sounded sort of angry and annoyed by what fans were expecting from them.
Ok, so 4 paragraphs, and I still haven't really reviewed the album. Maybe I am putting off being negative about it. Let me start with something positive. The packaging of the album is great. It comes in the rounded SACD covers that were used back in the day when SACD was around. They are higher quality cases and look very nice. I wonder however, if they went this route because they got a group discount on the pretty much defunct SACD format though. Artwork is also great, and done by Storm Thorgerson, the same guy who did many Pink Floyd album covers, in particular "Dark Side of the Moon." Ok, so four listens, and I can't say it is sticking with me. The first album had no vocals, the second album had 3 songs with vocals, with the vocals on 2 of those tracks being secondary to the instrumentation. On "Vaccine", I think 8 of the 9 songs have vocals! And for the most part, the vocals take center stage. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like vocals, but these vocals are just too poppy. Ru Campbell has a great voice, but it just sounds too high for this type of music. Honestly, almost every single song on this album I could hear on the radio. I would not be surprised if this is their most successful album. And I wish them all the luck in that. However, going back to the previous interview the band had, I can't understand how they thought this was the next logical step for the band. As for progression, I can hear some fantastic drumming and guitar work on the album, as well as some trademark trippy effects, and through the roof production. But there is so much one can do without sounding exactly like your previous work, and without making your sound appeal to the general masses. Let's face it, the music that appeals to the general masses, for the most part, is not challenging, complicated or diverse, but easy to listen to, catchy, and with a chorus that is easy to remember and sing to. That bubblegum sound as they call it. For any of you technical wizards out there, if there is a way to remove some of the vocals without compromising the rest of the music, please let me know!
I will give the album a few more listens to see if it grows on me, but for now, I have to say that this was a disappointment, especially compared to their previous albums.
Two additional notes related to amazon.co.uk.
1. It took 7 days for me to receive the CD. I was hoping for it to arrive quicker, but had I known this, I may have simply waited to order from the US.
2. The CD was not packed in a bubble envelope, but practically a normal envelope with no additional protection against damage to the CD! If the package had dropped at all in travelling from the UK to the US, the CD would have broken. As a matter of fact, I can hear something rattling in the case.