The Vaccines, Oh Mercy @ the Hi-Fi, Melbourne (03/08/2011)
Oh Mercy have a retro aesthetic, female bass player and a lead guitarist with an impossibly short guitar strap who took the mantra ‘dance like no-one is watching’ straight to heart. And that might be all you need to know about Oh Mercy – chances are you’ve already drawn all the conclusions you need to form an opinion about this band and chances are you’d probably be right. Their jangly, modern take on the Kinks, while wholly listenable, is neither gutsy nor catchy enough to demonstrate any ‘wow factor’ in the live arena – unfortunately falling somewhere in the middle around the catchment area of the term, ‘pleasant’. Oh, mercy.
Completing a night of pleasing predictability, The Vaccines at least inject some energy into the evening (oh come on, a band name that crappy is crying out for half-arsed puns) with some cockney swagger and frenetic strumming… of which there is a lot. There’s a myriad of reference points you could use to describe how this band sound, but all of them would feature the 6 stringed instrument in imperious measure. This penchant for strumming and the nicely balanced syncopated work of Pete Robertson on the drums lends itself equally to 60’s garage rock and dour 80’s post-punk, meaning walking in at any stage throughout the set you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon either a quintessentially English version of the Strokes or The Editors chirpier younger brothers – the ones who didn’t get bullied at school.
Front man Justin Young is the typical frontman, picking up and putting down his guitar almost on a song-by-song basis and interjecting with smart quips to the audience with the standard regularity. For the rest of the band there’s much roaming of the stage and doubtless the drummer gets as tired of being presented with his bandmates crotches as we do staring at their shaking arses. So far so foreseeable, and if anyone had come into the room expecting anything other than a night of straight down the middle indie-rock then they’d made a huge misstep. With such a small volume of work to draw from, the setlist is no misnomer either, meaning every polo shirted rude boi and booty shaking hipster girl get to hear their favourite, be it the excellently raucous Wolf Pack or the driving intonation of Post Break-up Sex.
“What did you expect?” a large banner enquires from behind the drumkit – exactly what you got is probably the most appropriate answer, but then since when was getting what you wanted a bad thing. The Vaccines music, style and general outlook suits an occasion with minimal surprises and tonight delivers on its implicit promise of having a good time. No encore is needed after a short and frenetic set and the punters stream back into the night convinced that boredom is the disease and The Vaccines are the cure.