First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by John Metzger
The last few years have been difficult for The Vines, so much so that many fans had wondered if the band was going to be forced to call it quits. It all began when its sophomore effort Winning Days was met with mixed reviews, though it was front man Craig Nichollsí erratic behavior that proved to be its biggest problem. He trashed the sets of both The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; he routinely tossed verbal abuses at his audience; and he was charged with assault after an altercation with a photographer. Many thought it was simply idiotic, rock star behavior, but Nicholls subsequently was diagnosed with Aspergerís syndrome, a form of autism. In the midst of it all, bass player Patrick Matthews fled the chaos to join Youth Group, but by this point, the ensembleís demise seemed almost certain.
With the release of Vision Valley, however, itís safe to say that not only has The Vines returned, but it also has a new lease on life. Though the band (sans Matthews) still seems hellbent on rummaging through its record collection ó in particular, allusions to The Kinks, Cheap Trick, and The Beatles abound ó the album contains more clarity and focus than its predecessor. It also is a considerably darker affair, as Nichollsí situation undoubtedly impacted the emotional content of his lyrics and cast an air of frustrated alienation upon the set. As songs like the gooey, bubblegum groove of Donít Listen to the Radio; the driving, Janeís Addiction-fueled frenzy of F*k Yeh; and the chugging, pop-charged Nothinís Cominí suggest, The Vines remains capable of delivering an adrenaline-soaked onslaught of garage-punk. Nevertheless, the collectionís most interesting moments come when the group slows down the tempo and attaches more texture to its ruminations of which the country-influenced Take Me Back; the harmonic bliss of Atmosí latter half; the fusion of Oasis, Radiohead, XTC, and The Beatles on Going Gone; the string-slathered loveliness of the title track; and the epic, Pink Floyd-ian coda Spaceship are prime examples. Unfortunately, only the latter tune feels complete, but taken in total, they all provide evidence that The Vinesí creative spark, once again, has been ignited.
Vision Valley is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box