The Vacancy - The Vacancy (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Vacancy

The Vacancy (2003)


Acoustic guitar? Bongos?! Songs about girls? On an A-F release?! WTF?! I avoided this CD for a long time because of my preconceived notion of what an A-F band sounds like. My mindset was that they are all Mohawk-sporting nihilists who spout political jargon in their songs so they seem concerned and then do little about it, merely complaining in their snotty voices over poorly played guitars. (Actually, I have only heard four A-F bands, so you'll have to excuse me, I guess I'm a little prejudiced…anyway…) They proved me wrong. Not ALL of their bands fit this description.

The Vacancy is like Lifetime without the warp-speed tempos. They are straightforward with their toe-tapping beats, vocal hooks, and agenda-less lyrics. The guy's voice even sounds a little like Ari. These songs aren't pitiful "my girlfriend broke my heart" songs, but are about relationships in general…with people of all kinds, not necessarily females, and not all about unfortunate events.

My disbelief that this was an A-F album started instantly with "Still the King," basically an upbeat pop punk tune with a killer hook in the chorus, and just enough grit. "Knocking Ourselves Dead" is a cool mid-tempo rocker, and has a chorus to yell along with: "So let's give them what we've got / what…we've…got… yeah!"

"After the Storm" is an unexpected but welcome slow tempo song with its share of hooks. The lyrics are a nice change of pace from the genre; they are positive- about putting the past behind and looking forward to what's to come. Not the best track by any means, but it's nice to see them mix it up and help break my prejudices of what this label can put out. The next and last track, "Decaffeinated Winter Weekends" goes even farther off the A-F track, showing that indeed they may have been influenced by Elvis Costello as their bio states, with its simple acoustic-bar-chord pop, its falsetto lines exchanging with a sing-along unison part, the lyrics "rocking battle scars," and yes, bongos and shakers.

Since releasing this they have changed drummers and dropped a second guitar to become a trio, but with lead singer Ben still in the band it should be more of the same. While it's not at the top of my priorities, I will be interested to hear their full length. This isn't anything original, but it is done decently and for this label it may be a mold-breaker. Congratulations, A-F, your band The Vacancy has broken my unfair view of your label.