From the kitschy cheese-pop of 2013 break-out single Can We Dance, to the deftly crafted hues of new LP, Cherry Blossom, there is no resemblance for plucky London foursome, The Vamps. With their feet firmly planted on the right side of sonic evolution, Beth Walker unpacks the rumination and ruckus of the band's most mature project to date.
Themes of rebirth, regrowth and progression are central to The Vamps’ highly anticipated fifth studio album, Cherry Blossom. Despite staying true to the band’s sparkling pop roots, the record's ten tracks exhibit an ambitious shift in direction, sound and ambience from The Vamps’ previous full-lengths. Blending a more synthesised sound with the signature instrumental flare that fans favour, the album is somewhat revolutionary for the foursome – both a brief wave to The Vamps’ past and a large step towards their promising future.
Two years in the making, Cherry Blossom gives the immediate impression of being an evolutionary point in The Vamps’ career through both its geometric and celestial artwork, and the inclusion of an experimental introductory track. The aptly titled Glory Days Intro is a chirpy fourteen-second prelude with a simplistic, almost childlike beat pitched at a lower frequency than the beginning of first track, Glory Days. Although travelling through a tunnel and arriving at the record, the intro heightens the anticipation for the upcoming ten tracks, and artfully contributes to the overall listening experience.
On Glory Days, we are struck by the familiar, silky vocals of charming frontman Bradley Will Simpson. Perhaps more mature lyrically than their previous works, the song captures the fast-paced nature of today’s society: “I just wanna take some time to say / you should take some time out today / and put your phone on airplane / come and connect and communicate.” As the boys go on to reflect jovially on their youth, the upbeat tone is set for the following tracks, with Simpson affirming that “these are the best days of our lives.”
Such observational lyricism can be seen to run throughout Cherry Blossom, including on the track Better which acknowledges and accepts the inadequacies of a failed relationship. However, there is a real feel of an allegory in the ruminative lines, “Did things get better, or did we get used to it?” and “We can do better than this,” and so the song can perhaps also be understood as a social comment upon how many of us accept the inadequacies and issues in the world around us.
‘Distinct and quirky bass notes, courtesy of Connor Ball, are highly present throughout, and give the track a sense of energetic jubilance.’
The record’s first two singles, Married in Vegas and Chemicals, are both eclectic and energetic but vary dramatically in their overall style and direction. The former could quite easily have belonged on The Vamps vivacious fourth album Night & Day: Day Edition alongside previous singles and fan-favourites Just My Type and Hair Too Long. Distinct and quirky bass notes, courtesy of Connor Ball, are highly present throughout, and give the track a sense of energetic jubilance. Contrarily, the record’s second single, Chemicals, could not be further away from The Vamps’ usual style. Were nightclubs open, this is certainly a song you could expect to hear played loud; it’s strong drum-beat and backing vocals act as a thundering undercurrent, and are intrinsic to the band’s new vibe.
Tristan Evans’ innovative drum-beats also thrive on mid-album track Nothing But You, whilst James McVey and Connor Ball’s titillating backing vocals construct a similar beat structure on the scorching Bitter – a refreshing tint upon the nonetheless flawless vocals of Simpson. The energised pace slows with the steady rhythms of Would You, which with its strong opening beat that washes over the listener before an electric vocal interjection from Simpson, is perhaps a highlight of the new record.
Despite its insatiably catchy and repetitive chorus, Would You is certainly a maturation of The Vamps’ earliest records, Meet the Vamps and Wake Up. With both a sharp, snappy beat, and slow and contemplative hues mediating on the act of missing someone and not being able to forget about them, it is undoubtedly amongst Cherry Blossom’s standout songs. Though simple in imagery and idea, the subsequent Part of Me is effectively executed through a corresponding use of repetitive and magnetic lyricism. However, with its mature treatment of heartbreak and taking responsibility for inflicting emotional hurt, the band exhibit more complex themes on track nine, Protocol
Amongst all of Cherry Blossom’s thoughtfulness however, many fans may find themselves missing the effervescent pop sound that The Vamps have become widely renowned for. That is until the final song of the album, Treading Water, where Simpson’s mellow vocals shine unboundedly. On this track, which is reminiscent of previous album tracks Stay and Paper Hearts, the band demonstrate their growth both as artists and individuals, as well as their lyrical development through the sensitive mediations on relationships.
Such concepts of regrowth and progression are particularly prevalent in the lines: “Patiently waiting impatiently / to share all my insecurities / first I’ve got to work on me.” Here, the powerful harmonic combination of McVey on guitar with Simpson’s vocal range and skillset, resolves in the album ending on both a literal and metaphorical high note.
Written by: Beth Walker
Edited by: Olivia Stock