he cover screams ‘psychedelic’, Craig Nichols’ illustrated face warped by a thousand lysergic suns. As you’d expect. The hamburger-scoffing Australian son of grunge and Britpop both, the behaviourally ‘difficult’, spliff-toting, lip curling, pose-throwing, guitar-crunching, word-slurring saviour of rock, if you believe some. Sophomore slump? Difficult second album? Is Craig likely to kill himself at any point in the near future?
Winning Days is business as usual for The Vines, which is an unusual thing to say about a band on their second album, but even on debut Highly Evolved it was already abundantly clear that Mr Nichols et al don’t fuck around; they have their formula and they’re going to stick to it. Crunchy riffs? Check. Immaculate production? Check. Sneering vocals? Check. Side-order of Britpop melodic swing? Check. Hippy nonsense? Check.
“Ride” gets the album started on a high-octane note, but no matter how scratchy the lead-in guitars are, the expensive production can’t make it as excitingly raw as it would like to be. Dropping some dance-derived (bit late in the day for that, isn’t it?) interference and rhythmic fucked-up-ness, while effective, seems to be going against the point. Plus it's essentially “Get Free” Part 2, a bizarre fact when you consider that later on “Autumn Shade II” literally is “Autumn Shade” Part 2; one could take this as a suggestion that young Craig is running out of songs already, but that would be cruel. Accurate, mind. “Autumn Shade II” is another opportunity for nonsensical lyrics to scream “look at me, I’m mad I am” like an annoying child, as Craig neologises all over the shop in a bid to appear weird - “look through me because I am a transparogram”- what the fuck is a transparogram?
So “Animal Machine” does the heavy thing and “Sun Child” is all epic guitar breaks and vocal lines stretched to infinity, attempts to grasp at some reflection of profundity without ever having to learn the basics of what profound is. This is the noughties, man, post-post-Debord; appearance is all. “TV Pro” takes the irritating George Harrison moments and the Nirvana-lite shit-spitting and sticks them together, and album-closer “Fuck The World” (how adolescent a title is that?) rides in on some fuzzed bass and, thankfully, resists the temptation to get epic on us.
Accomplished and full of bluster but ontologically completely hollow; this is The Vines. Craig is great at throwing postures but rubbish at filling them with meaning; he hints at a hint of mystery, but because the allure is second hand it doesn’t work, he knows the signifiers but not the signified, and thus his poses are all wrong. There is, of course, the possibility that he actually is a fucked up crazy sun child rock star, but I doubt it. No one really crazy would make music this nice and clean and safe and full of blankness.