The Vines
Highly Evolved

welcome to the twenty-first century alt. rock review.

The Vines, as you know, are from Australia, and, as you also know, are the greatest band the world has ever seen. We know this because NME has told us. Craig Nichols appears to have ascended to the status of ‘star’ merely because of his unerring ability to a; pull faces, b; grow a lopsided fringe and c; be very, very stoned in interviews. Six months on from the release of their debut album and it is wonderfully reassuring to see that The Vines have spectacularly failed to do an Oasis, Nirvana or Blur, and are languishing somewhere outside of the Zeitgeist.

What are the problems with Highly Evolved? The problems with Highly Evolved are many. Firstly, it’s produced to a ridiculously anal degree. The sound is clean, sharp, polished, professional and mechanical like a Ford just rolled off the production line, and is just as characterless. Craig has said many times that he much prefers being in the studio to playing live, and listening to this album you can hear that in every note. For a supposedly vibrant and dangerous rock n roll band, The Vines are desperately short on sonic dirt, edge, and noise. Listening to the album you’d be hard pushed to believe that any of The Vines (and who the fuck are the other 3? 4? 5? What are their names? What do they look like?) had ever played a bum note in their lives, such is the precision of the musicianship. And yet, for all his professing that he loves studio work, Craig seems loathe to use the studio as an instrument itself a la Brian Eno et al, for as well as clean, the sound on Highly Evolved is also safe and unimaginative.

But if the sound is unimaginative, the songwriting is positively fraudulent. The three ‘punky’ tracks each fall in thrall to the Nirvana/Pixies axis/template of quiet bit, loud bit, scream-your-lungs-out, while almost everything else seems to rip-off Britpop in excelsis. A modulated hooky Elastica synth-noise here, the bridge from a Blur song there, some harmonies every-fucking-where (harmonies, to NME journalists, automatically = Beach Boys + Beatles fucking in heaven). From time to time they manage to throw in the influence of an American band other than Nirvana. “Homesick” sees the hook from Blur’s “The Universal” tied to “November Rain” by Guns N Roses (no really, it does!), plus a really slow guitar solo reminiscent of Oasis circa ’94 (only minus the dirty production that gave early Oasis 80% of their character), and finally rolls out on a rolling bass coda pinched from Jane’s Addiction. Fed up with Britpop and shiny modern grunge? Try “The Factory”’s Clash-aping skank on for size! The Vines are truly the band for all seasons!

And if Craig’s songs are somewhat suspect in their origins, his lyrics absolutely reek of Freudian fucked-up-ness, for the poor boy is obsessed with being, and getting, ‘in’ things. “In the jungle,” “in the factory,” “in a country yard,” “ride into the sun,” “there ain’t no room for me in the city.” In the final track (which is, of course, ‘epic’), Craig expresses a desire to be in 1969 (which is, of course, the coolest year in history). What Jung or Freud would have to say about this, I’m not sure, but it would probably be along the lines of “boy, you are obsessed with returning to the womb, grow up and stop wanting to fuck your mother.”

ARGH! The Vines. Balls to them. Forgettable pastiche merchants.

PS. Seven Reasons Why Craig Nichols Is The Perfect RockStar™.

1; Young.

2; Good skin (= good looking 'cos all music journos are spotty cunts).

3; Messy hair (= good looking, 'cos if your hair is messy than presumably someone [maybe a gUrL] has been running their hands through it, ergo you might have been doing some shagging [music journos are asexual {not through choice}]).

4; Acts a bit 'mad' (see Jim Morisson through Johnny Rotten to Richard Ashcroft [always good for entertainment value {plus 'mad'ness is 'sexy' 'cos if you're 'mad' you might do weird things like shagging with the woman on top and so on}]).

5; Smokes dope (drugs are sexy 'cos they can KILL YOU and danger is always sexy unless it's actual real, potential-pain-and-nastiness danger happening to YOU rather than SOMEONE ELSE).

6; Because he acts a bit 'mad' and smokes dope he might DIE possibly of SUICIDE (one's records become approx 50x better if one dies under the age of about 40, esp. if one tops oneself [accidentaly or on porpoise]; see Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Curtis Stigers, etcetera {nb. Curtis Stigers has not died young, and so his records are still not good}).

7; He's Australian, and might be able to set you up with Kylie Minogue.

Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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