The Vines - Melodia
“He's not the messiah, He's a very naughty boy.”
The Vines could've been real contenders. In 2002, the press tagged them 'The Australian Nirvana' and their debut LP 'Highly Evolved' went Top 20 in the UK and US. Led by the enfant terrible Craig Nicholls, they possessed a genuine appetite for destruction leaving a trail of riotous gigs and trashed hotel rooms in their wake. Luckily the music was electric – a 50/50 split between fiery two-minute hurricane punk and six-minute strawberry fields bliss.
Then it all went wrong. A second album was rush released amidst line-up changes and in-band fisticuffs. The unfortunately named 'Winning Days' was – beautiful title track aside - simply a scarecrow stuffed with b-sides, studio scraps, swept up sawdust and some hair. They became an industry joke with promoters tiring of their bad boy antics and critics calling 'humbug!'. The window of opportunity was closing as rapidly as it had opened. Then Nicholls was sadly diagnosed with Aspergers, a form of autism, whose suffers are tellingly “treated with little sympathy” and apparently “find themselves excluded from society”. The news put the band's future in doubt and effectively put an end to their touring career overnight.
By the time a proper third LP, the fabulous 'Vision Valley', was released the world had moved on. It made little impact saleswise and they bid 'au revoir' to their major label deal.
Unfortunately this fourth album won't put them back on top. They're sticking rigidly to the classic Vines formula but here facing diminishing returns. Its 14 tracks race past in half an hour (only one track is over three minutes) but rarely leave any lasting impression. It's heads-down full-throttle from the get go, “C'mon, get out, outta here”, like a caged animal being let out to sprint around the yard for a few valuable moments.
The early 'Aussie Nirvana' comparisons were always a bit unjustified, The Vines were more like the Australian Ash – sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, quality Friday night pop rocky with the odd heartbreaker thrown in for the Sheilas. But the broad musical scope of their debut promised so much more.
In the no-messing tradition of The Ramones, there's plenty of cheap thrills to be had though if you play it 'one louder'. 'Merrygoround' is a rush of Waltzer pop with a double-speed chorus which tears you out of your seat and leaves your head spinning. The moshpit will be a death trap when they play this live. The EST blast of 'Braindead' does (for once) sound exactly like Nirvana. It's a ferocious storm of noise guaranteed to make you feel 13 again if only for two thrilling minutes and contains one of the most eloquent screams I've heard in years. 'Scream' also (unsurprisingly) contains lots of screams, a splash of surf guitar, just the right number of handclaps and feels like having an exorcist compelling the demon of rock 'n' roll out of your poisoned soul. Hell yeah, it feels gooood. Credit where it's due, Nicholls can caterwaul with the best of 'em.
Some of the songs are how I'd imagined The Beatles would've sounded in 1960 Hamburg. Timeless melodies buried under a howl of amphetamine fuelled raw power. Nicholl's punky whine sounds so uncannily like Lennon's at times, it's quite striking.
Lyrically it's teenage kicks (the fast songs) 'Give me all or give me nothing' or childlike loneliness and nostalgia (the slow songs) 'How did the time just slip away, I'd do anything to make it stay'.Whilst it's refreshingly unpretentious, I'm marking it 'could do better'. However there is a definite shadow of sadness and regret haunting the record, “Livin' off coke and brew so much time to sit and lose”, “I had enough of my time and so I threw it away”. Scratch the surface of 'bratty riot star' and you'll find some true feeling, “once there was a young man no one could understand”.
It's revealing that the highlight is the longest, most developed track. A comparative epic at six minutes 'True As The Night' showcases The Vines' poetic side. Musically it's a dead ringer for Springsteen's 'Valentine' and comes as a much needed mid-set breather on the benches. It's a real sweetheart with crushing strings and is the sort of honest sincerity Noel Gallagher wishes he could still write. It also highlights every frustration I have with The Vines, a genuine songwriting talent so rarely using the chance to shine and truly show the wealth of musical ambition they obviously possess.
Not a failure then but nowhere near the dizzying heights of their debut or 2006's revitalised 'Vision Valley'. The songs don't get a fair chance to breathe and develop. They're kids being sent to do a man's job. 'Jamola' is a minute long but sounds like the opening minute of an incredible song. What's the big rush? Nicholls is a serious talent and when he lets himself out of the (fun but overused) two-minute punk cage he keeps himself in he could really do some serious damage.