The Vines bring to mind the term "like father like son." Vocalist/guitarist Craig Nicholls' dad fronted the Vynes in the '60s. So in the late '90s, as Nicholls, bassist/vocalist Patrick Matthews and drummer David Oliffe were slaving away in a Sydney McDonalds it occurred to them that taking another shot at the Vynes/Vines might provide an escape. Playing Grunge-Punk, the Vines earned a U.K. recording contract. The short but powerful single "Highly Evolved" got noticed and the group toured. However, Oliffe wasn't much of a road animal, so he returned to Australia, replaced by Hamish Rosser. The group also added guitarist Ryan Griffiths. Their album "Highly Evolved" with the title track and single "Get Free" got them rolling in the U.S. With the psychedelic cover, "Winning Day,s" arrived in '04.
Something interesting happened as the group moved from "Highly Evolved" to "Winning Ways." On the Seattle stop of the "Highly Evolved" tour Nicholls hit the stage like a maniac Rock star. He knocked over his mic stand, then Matthews' stand, before falling into the drum kit. This was all during the first song. Many in the audience figured this was going to be a short show. However, Nicholls managed to get through it and be fairly entertaining, before an adoring crowd. The concert ended with Nicholls virtually dismantling the drum kit until Rosser threw down the sticks and walked off. The roadies reassembled the drum kit for the encore which had a similar ending.
Back in Seattle (at a larger venue) for "Winning Ways" the group did a straight show. No thrashing around, tossing off guitars like old lovers or lurching moves. It was OK but hardly memorable. Guess what happened?
"Winning Ways" failed to live up to expectations which but the Vines in a bit of a bind. What to do next? Many bands in a similar situation might try an "artistic statement;" an overblown, overly long effort to show fans, and critics (mostly critics) that here was something of substance. Usually, this fails miserably and the group never regains its footing. Fortunately, the Vines released "Vision Valley" in '06, a collection of concise, to the point, songs.
The title track of "Highly Evolved," is the best place to start. Here, in a short, compact blast, are the essentials. Guttural, post-Grunge vocals, churning guitars and a muscular rhythm section. The album also contains their frantic "Get Free," which was a successful single, and angst Rocker "Outathaway." The only time the Vines falter is when they slow down.
As with "Highly Evolved," the Vines Rock with power and authority on "Winning Days" but still have trouble with ballads. No matter, you couldn't ask for a more potent start than the hypnotic riffing of "Ride" and the roaring guitar and doo-wop backing vocals on "Animal Machine." The album wraps up with another killer track, "FTW." In between, there's the retro '60s pop ditty "She's Got Something To Say To Me" and the acoustic "Rainfall." Of the ballads, the title track ("winning days are gone") works best while "Autumn Shade 2" and "Evil Town" fail to connect. Skip them. Play the Rockers until they wear out.
"Vision Valley" is not up there with "Highly Evolved" but the Vines are getting closer. They race through 12 of the album's 13 songs ("Spaceship" is the only track over 3 minutes, clocking in at over 6) and are better for it. First single, "Don't Listen To The Radio" is an excellent uptempo track but it is eclipsed by "Nothins Comin." The retro-cool of "Dandy Daze" with the organ backing, is sharp. The Vines actually produce a worthwhile ballad. The title track resonates though the other ballad "Going Gone" is sleepy, dull. Rebounding, the Vines take the reckless noise of "Dope Train" and fill it with hooks.