In a manner not unlike the poor man caught in a cascade of flower pedals on Vaccine‘s eye-popping album cover, listeners to Younger Brother‘s third record are treated to a pleasant barrage of blissed-out bleeps, dulcet toned guitars, and soothing vocals. Fans and casual followers of Simon Posford, guitarist to Younger Brother who is perhaps better known (although still criminally unheralded) for sowing the seeds of psychedelic trance music between his fantastic work with Raja Ram in Shpongle and his solo output as Hallucinogen, will either be left rejoicing or in dismay as he and Younger Brother press further on along the road they started down with their second LP, The Last Days of Gravity, whose straightforward rock arrangements and linear verse/chorus/verse songwriting were a far cry from anything in Posford’s wild, positively psychotropic back catalog.
With old members Benji Vaughan and Ruu Campbell on synths and vocals, respectively, and new arrivals Tom Hamilton, Marc Brownstein, and Joe Russo, Younger Brother tinker around with a variety of sounds and rhythms with a newfound reliance on their virtuosity and cohesion as a band; this holds especially true for the incredibly talented Russo, who drums full-time in noted jam band supergroup Furthur. In spite of this, the music itself comes out regrettably dull, and one gets the impression that Younger Brother could someday put together a very good record. Too often, Vaccine is overly intent on bouncing between genres and styles, presumably in an attempt at idiosyncrasy that instead ends up evoking what I’d imagine a Coldplay studio session the morning after their first rave would sound like in the stadium-sized choruses of “Shine” and future single “Night, Lead Me Astray”.
This persistence sounds even more bizarre come Vaccine‘s stellar latter half, which harks back to the sort of sublime atmospherics and dynamic climaxes that featured heavily on Younger Brother’s 2003 debut, A Flock of Bleeps. Posford & Co. sound most at home trying their mutual hand at traditional songcraft in their old, more disjointed frame of mind, as on album highpoint “Train” (criminally tucked away at track seven), which employs a subdued guitar line, faint synths, and resonant percussion to conjure up a profoundly bleak soundscape. Younger Brother reprise their roles as DJs for two atmospheric trance tracks, “Sys 700” and “Tetris”, that close out the album in intriguing fashion, offering an introspective flipside to a mostly forgettable album and prospects of better things next time around.