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Vines - Highly Evolved

  by Mark Rowland

published: 9 / 7 / 2002

Vines - Highly Evolved
Label: Heavenly Recordings
Format: CD


Impressive,if flawed much hyped debut album from Australia's the Vines

Yep, it's the next in a very long line of intensely hyped bands. The Vines have seemingly not been able to sneeze without getting a mention in the NME. As good as a band might be, seeing them in  the same publication every week for the past six months can get kind of irritating, but you still find yourself wondering what the band are like, and then that thought becomes stuck fast in the middle of your brain, which is even more irritating. When the Vines' first two singles came out I really liked them, especially the spiky 'Get Free',which had me frothing at the mouth in anticipation of their debut album. After reading about frontman Craig Nicholls' obsessions, strops and eating habits for about the tenth time, and then seeing their name start to appear in lots of other magazines as well,I began, however. to get sick of the sight of them, which is a shame, because they're actually rather good. For all his neuroses, Craig Nicholls is a very good songwriter. His songs veer in sound from Beatles-sque guitar pop to a raspier-sounding Blur to Nirvana-style grunge and back again, stopping off at late sixties Garage and even Reggae along the way. Well, I say Reggae, but it's in fact more playful skank pop-rock, on the tongue-in-cheek, but actually quite brilliant 'Factory'. Oh, and those of you thinking '"Oh no, Australians with a Nirvana fixation!",don't panic ! They don't sound at all like Silverchair. 'Highly Evolved' changes mood as fast as you can say 'schizophrenic', switching from self-hating melancholia (the 'Heart-shaped box'-esque 'Country Yard') and rejected fury (the afformentioned 'Get Free') to blissed out sun and love tunes ('Autumn Shade' and 'Mary Jane'). This is a good thing, giving the album a much wider emotional scope more true to the real way that emotions can suddenly change in people, rather than the black and white "I'm so sad" or "I'm so happy" (mainly the latter)tunes of so many other bands' albums. This wide range of musical and emotional styles makes for a very well rounded album that is filled with great songs. Really, there isn't a bad tune on here, but there is something that stops the album from achieving the great things that it is apparently "destined" to do, and that's this: As great a songwriter as he is, Nicholls hasn't quite shake himself free of his major influences. While he doesn't do anything quite as bad as rip off the riffs of the bands he is influenced by, you would be forgiven for mistaking some of his songs as by those bands if you were listening with half an ear. For example, 'Homesick' boasts a piano part that is so like something that the Beatles might have done that you would think that they had managed to resurrect John Lennon for a special guest appearance, while the ghost of Kurt lends a spectral hand on several tracks. This is still, however, a great debut album. The songwriting's definitely there, and the Vines just need some time to rise above their influences. Perhaps then they will fully live up to all the hype that's been thrown at them.

Track Listing:-
1 Highly Evolved
2 Autum Shade
3 Outtathaway
4 Sunshinin
5 Homesick
6 Get Free
7 Country Yard
8 Factory
9 In The Jungle
10 Mary Jane
11 Ain't No Room
12 1969

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live reviews

London Shepherd's Bush Empire, 4th November 2002
Vines - London Shepherd's Bush Empire, 4th November 2002
The latest object of the NME's unfaltering love, Australia's the Vines have been attracting enormous critical interest. Jonjo McNeill at an sometimes lacklustre show in London is not totally convinced by the hype

digital downloads


Get Free (2002)
"Instantly catchy" debut single from NME favourites the Vines, which more than lives up to the hype

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