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The Vines
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    The Vines

    Highly Evolved ( 2002 )
    Highly Evolved / Autumn Shade / Outtathaway / Sunshinin / Homesick / Get Free / Country Yard / Factory / In The Jungle / Mary Jane / Aint No Room / 1969

    With the Garage Rock revival reaching saturation point during 2002, where do The Vines fit into all of this? They began life as a Nirvana covers act and it shows but that's not a reason alone to put them down. Plenty of great groups started life as covers acts. The Rolling Stones? U2? Plenty of great groups. The Vines don't sound like a potentially great group of that kind of calibre judging by this however. If The Hives are entertaining and funny, what are The Vines? Well, they take themselves seriously in places, although a song like 'Factory' isn't serious. A song like 'Outtathaway' isn't serious, but only the latter of those songs is enjoyable. The opening title song is loud and decent - the vocals are key. The vocals are screamed, the lyrics nothing apart from the concept of 'Highly Evolved', some sort of concept that the group appear to be grasping at, in any event. 'Autumn Shade' is a lovely song with Piano, soft harmonies and a hazy atmosphere. Wait a second, this doesn't sound at all like Nirvana! That's good, they can move in different directions next time out, they have the potential to progress. The songs are all well performed, well played. The group sing harmony pretty well. There is little on either Strokes, White Stripes or Hives albums as soft and lovely as 'Autumn Shade'. Well, nothing in fact, if we are talking Rock-Ballad type stuff. So, a point of credit to The Vines for 'Autumn Shade', it's a great track.

    'Outtathaway' and 'Sunshinin' are both highlights, the former an exciting enjoyable rock thrash, the latter featuring good screamed vocals as well as interesting electro keyboard sounds. 'Get Free' is a good punk thrash. Place it somewhere between 'Bleach' and 'Nevermind' and you'll get the idea. It also sounds like The Hives, by the way. The Hives pose so well. They shake their heads so well and look so damn cool. The Hives are a better idea than they are a group, although they are a very entertaining group and idea! The Vines lack such cool. 'Country Yard' opens pure 'Nevermind'. Do you like 'Nevermind'? I do, don't like this much, though. His voice lacks something, the lyrics lack something.... the song goes absolutely nowhere, in any case. The Vines at this stage in their career are patently inferior to even the worst Nirvana songs, even those extended messy jams that lacked melody. The remaining five or so songs of this album bore me to tears. Generic guitar parts, generic melodies, generic vocals. Rock with safety wings. Let's paddle around the pool, careful there. Don't want to hurt yourself.... The Vines DO have potential. There is enough here to show that much, although not enough here to make anything like a great album.

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    Readers Comments

    Neal Grosvenor comrade_ronevsorg@excite.com
    Geez, how can you say that man??? The Vines are my favourite band!! I will now stalk you and send you nasty e-mails until you like the Vines. Naw..just kidding you...I don't know what it is, as I bought this back when it first came out, and I've been listening to it steadily, but it just lacks something. It certainly doesn't deserve all the hype it has been getting. I honestly think that mainstream rock critics are getting stupider year after year. I feel the same way about "Autumn Shade", as it initially didn't strike me as a good song, but it is quite a beautiful chorus. After having lived in Australia for awhile, I can really say that there are way more deserving and talented bands than these guys. They actually sound a lot like a band from Perth called Jebediah, who also received the "Nirvana soundalike" tag when they first came out, although where the Vines try to Americanize their sound, Jebediah were distinctly Aussie, yob accents and all.


    top of page Winning Days 6 ( 2002 )
    Ride / Animal Machine / TV Pro / Autumn Shade 2 / Evil Town / Winning Days / She's Got Something To Say To Me / Rainfall / Amnesia / Sun Child / F.T.W

    I know it's unfair, but then, life is unfair. I was fairly intrigued ( rather than excited ) to witness The Vines re-emerge. However, when 'Ride' popped up on the radio ( and MTV ) it just seemed so empty. Catchy enough Nirvana-lite, yet SO Nirvana in terms of structure, it seemed impossible not to make the comparison. 'Ride' sounds like a Nirvana b-side then, yet with a weaker and thinner sound. It's also one of the best songs on the album. It's an album that repeats the debut, yet the poppier side of the band is less in evidence than before. That's a shame as far as i'm concerned, because that was the side of the band I liked the most. The singer ( Craig Nicholls ) is game and he tries, yet his vocals simply don't wrap around many of the aggressive tunes as satisfyingly as they might. Interestingly when browsing the tracklist for 'Winning Days', we see several songs previously rejected or reused from various past Vines sessions. 'FTW', 'Winning Days' and 'She's Got Something To Say To Me' date as far back as 1999 and all were at some stage in contention for a place on 'Highly Evolved'. There are other 'old' songs here too. Indeed, some doubt that anything on 'Winning Days' is truly a new song at all. This all begs a question though, doesn't it? Imagine The Vines recording a kick-ass, rough and ready and raw, genuine rock album incorporating a smattering of beautiful acoustic ballads? 14 or 16 songs long and without any kind of polished or commercial production? The Vines quite likely have the potential to do that, and already could have done if rumour be told, yet record company nonsense always interferes. The other rumour/thought is The Vines are just derivative rubbish. Truth is, The Vines of 'Winning Days' are no seriously better or worse than The Vines of 'Highly Evolved'.

    Highlights here then? May as well, because they are some, actually. 'Rainfall' and 'Sun Child' are both effective, faintly psych-pop tunes, 'Animal Machine' hints at the rawness this band are perhaps capable of harvesting properly someday if they last long enough. The title tune, 'Winning Days', starts alluringly lovely with acoustic guitar, then loses a little of charm when progressing into a bog-standard, mid-tempo pop tune. Bog-standard for a decent, if unremarkable, pop-rock band, you understand. Yet, listening to this title tune, I can pick out so much that could have been done better. You see, it's not the fault of the material, it's the fault of whoever was in charge of recording the album and trying to stretch the creativity of the band. Craig Nicholls is a fan of very recent bands, 1990s onwards. He needs to find his own space and outgrow his covers band origins and be allowed to do so, yet I don't get the feeling the modern music industry really encorages artists to find themselves. Well, The Vines were given plenty of time and money for album 1, Capitol sensing another 'Nevermind'. In retrospect, with 'Winning Days' bombing, it may have made more sense to allow The Vines to have released their original demos as a debut, build up a little for a follow-up, experiment here and there. Develop naturally and without obvious restrictions of commerciality. Then again, Capitol Records always were stupid. Most major labels are.

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    Readers Comments

    Mike Harrison cathairball5000@yahoo.com
    I don't get the Vines. They SHOULD be a good band. It sounds like they want to be a retro 60s/70s band and they want to be a, well, "highly evolved" and more thoughtful alternative band. But it always sounds like these guys have one foot in the retro door and the other foot in the alt-rock door, and they can't mix the two genres. Either they just don't HAVE the ability, or maybe they're actually more talented than the records let on. But they're constantly flitting between retro AND alt-rock knockoffs. They should pick a sound, develop the sound, and stick with it! Actually, there are a LOT of retro bands just like the Vines who sound like they have potential, yet produce a lot of unsatisfying music that almost always ellicits the following reactionary cliche: "weeellllll......nice try." I just don't get how bands like the Vines get signed to major-label deals when they don't have a handle on their music.

    top of page this page last updated 17/05/07



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