by Keavin Wiggins
These rockers from Down Under prepare to invade the U.S. Music Scene.
A few weeks ago we ran a review of The Vines debut CD, "Highly Evolved" (don't worry if you missed it, I am including most of it here). As I explained in that review we typically do not run reviews several weeks before a CD is released but I had to make an exception in this case. There were really two reasons for this. One; like I stated in that review, "it's sort of like being a kid who discovered something really cool and you just have to tell everyone who will listen about it. This CD is like that; it fires up my inner evangelist and makes me want to preach the good news of The Vines from street corners. Yes, I am being quite serious!"
The other reason was a bit more serious and it appears that my fears have at least been partially justified. I was afraid that once critics and the like got a good listen to The Vines they would feel the way I did and start telling everyone they know about them and thus start a barrage of hype. Here is how I explained it originally, "The buzz about this group is about to hit critical mass and dare I say the hype that is expected to blowup around them may turn some people off before they even give the CD an honest listen. That would be a big mistake and the people who jump to that premature conclusion would only be cheating themselves."
One other concern was that people would link the band to the genre of music now being called "New Garage" (how lame is that genre title?). People are already lumping The Vines in with groups like The Strokes, The Hives and The White Stripes. Many times after hearing only one song! That is a huge mistake since The Vines are anything but a one trick pony and are one of those rare groups that don't stick to a set formula and instead offer a wide cross section of musical flavors. Even if one song on the album doesn't turn you on, there is a good chance that another will. While I like the sound that bands like The White Stripes, The Hives and The Strokes are producing compared to The Vines it is really pretty limited. These groups have generated a lot of excitement and rave reviews but none of them have taken the new "retro" style genre to the mass public and translated that into major record sales. It may turn out that The Strokes, The Hives and The White Stripes may have simply laid the groundwork for The Vines to take the genre to the next level in popularity and help kick a complacent music scene in the ass and get it moving again. The reason The Vines can accomplish this while the others have failed is because they honestly have more to offer musically.
Even if you don't like The Strokes and the other bands I mentioned, you may find one of the sides to the musical personality of the The Vines appealing. . "‘It is like listening to all your favourite bands at once,' wrote Betty Clarke of the British supersite Guardian Unlimited. Betty hit on one of the key appeals of The Vines with that statement. As you progress through the sonic voyage of soaking in the album, you catch glimpses of other musical greats ranging from The Beatles to Pink Floyd to Nirvana to The Stooges to early Soul Asylum and many others. "
But let me backtrack a little, and start out by saying I was blown away the first time I heard the album and now a few weeks later it still hasn't lost its luster the way some CD's wear thin after hearing them a few dozen times. If anything my appreciation of The Vines grows with each subsequent spin of the CD. So now my enthusiasm is at an even higher level than it was when I wrote the original review. And that enthusiasm is contagious! Within days of posting that review I started getting emails from fans asking where they can hear previews of the album. Knowing how much of a music cynic I am, my enthusiasm made an impression on some of the other writers here at antiMUSIC and they began asking for copies of the CD because they wanted to hear for themselves what caused me to write such a glowing review.
Let me go on record now and tell you that I hear literally hundreds of new CD's each year and very few end up in my personal CD collection. "Highly Evolved", made the cut. I'll even go as far as to say that if we were to pick the best albums of 2002 right now, this CD would be at the top of the list. With very few new bands offering anything really inspiring, the original purpose of starting Rocknworld.com and antiMUSIC.com sometimes gets lost. The goal in the beginning was to expose great music to people regardless of whether it came from a major label artist, indy band or the dudes pounding out music in the garage down the street. With the barrage of mediocre releases this year, it was beginning to look like we wouldn't have that many albums to write about to fulfill that goal. But rest assured, now that the year is half over, The Vines have come along and helped save 2002 from being a total bummer musically.
If you want to know why and didn't read my original review of the CD, I'm including part of that review below to explain why I feel The Vines deserve your attention!
From the first angst filled chords of the lead off track and first single, "Highly Evolved", The Vines captured my full attention. The song has The Stooges meet Nirvana feel to it propelled with an abundance of melodic hooks and overdriven guitars. Clockin in at one minute and 34 seconds the song is over almost as soon as it begins, which makes it a really compelling option to hit the rewind key on the CD player to hear it one more time. But then the second song "Autumn Shade" starts and you decide to wait on replaying the first song. "Autumn Shade" shows a mellower side of the Vines and is the first introduction of the Beatles meets modern alternative rock you will hear on the album. The song actually sounds a lot like something one of my favorite unsigned bands Twelvehourmary might play. But again the experience is short lived as the song segways into the much heavier "Outtathaway" after only a couple of minutes. Here the Vines pay homage to Iggy Pop once more but unlike a band like the White Stripes, The Vines blend the Stooges influence with others like Nirvana that really helps it become far more than a copy of the Stooges.
"Sunshinin'" comes across like an acid rock band that was suddenly transplanted into 1992 Seattle and transfixed by the grunge sound, incorporated it into their style while maintaining their 60's rock characteristics. The next song "Homesick" a ballad that sounds like it would feel comfortable on side two of The Beatles "Abbey Road" is a real highpoint of the album. The Vines mix of melody, exceptionally delivered instrumentation and harmonies on this song are just part of what makes this band so exciting to listen to and dare I say it, really helps them stand head and shoulders above just about any band on the rock scene at the moment.
"Get Free", a full speed rocker takes elements of early punk, grunge and 70's era glam of the New York Dolls and gives it a modern spin. It really comes on like something that Local H or early Soul Asylum would write.
"Country Yard," another slower song has a psychedelic Beatles meets Radiohead groove to it that should appeal to listeners both young and old. With "Factory" we see another side of the group's Beatles influence, a song that starts out as a look back at John Lennon's "Mr. Kite" from "Sgt Peppers", the Lennon influence in the vocals is uncanny. If it wasn't for the heavier guitar driven interludes some people might actually mistake this song for a long lost track from the "Sgt. Peppers" sessions. The working class sentiments of the lyrics also tie the song in with Lennon in spirit.
"In The Jungle" spans the decades as well with heavy late 60's undercurrent and modern alternative rock face that makes it similar to the music of bands like The Posies but with a bit more balls.
"Mary Jane" has a real trippy feel to it, the vocals, bass and guitar sound unmistakably like "Dark Side of Moon" era Pink Floyd, which is a really stunning achievement as not many bands can pull off Pink Floyd's style without sounding contrived. Every time this song comes up, I have to hit repeat a couple of times, it's that good!
"Ain't No Room" is the most modern sounding song on the album, the heavy guitars and vocals sound a bit like Nirvana but it also mixes The Vines 60's influences, so it stays in character with their other songs. "1969" gets to the heart of the matter, a song where the Vines unabashingly admit their deep love for the music of the late 60's with lyrics like, "It's 1969 in my head / I just want to have no place to go / Living through the sound of the dead". The sound is a clever mix of the Beatles and Pink Floyd with a bridge that falls into Iggy Pop territory. This is a really a love song written to an era of music that the band obviously loves.
Unlike other bands that borrow from The Beatles like Oasis, The Vines didn't lift the sound from the Fab Four intact; they take the best elements of many artists and recraft them into their own sound. It may be 2002 but The Vines make you wish it were 1969 again. For those of us who were too young to live through the real era of the late 60's, this is the next best thing.
It's about time that music from a major
label stretches the boundaries of what is expected and voyages beyond the
pop-rock constraints of modern radio friendly music. The Vines are quite
simply one of the best new bands to hit the music scene in years. These
four guys from Australia have the makings of superstars and as James Dean
Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers recently said, The Vines are "'absolutely
f***ing amazing." Bloody well right!
Vines – Highly Evolved
Photos and Album Art Courtesy
of Capitol Records.
Keavin Wiggins is the Editor