The Vines lose it
After some careful consideration, I've come to the conclusion that the Vines' Winning Days is not the worst album in my record collection. Still, I'm very glad it cost me less than 10 bucks.
The band emerged from Australia two years ago at the height of a perceived "new rock" movement, following the likes of the Strokes and the White Stripes. Frontman Craig Nicholls brought the group attention for his antics on stage (trashing everything) and in interviews (locking himself in the bathroom for hours to escape them).
If you believe the press, Nicholls apparently subsists exclusively on Red Bull, marijuana, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's. On the Vines' debut Highly Evolved his musical appetite seemed comparatively simple-Nirvana and the Beatles are clear influences, transmitted through Nicholls' warped little mind into the appealing if derivative Vines sound. The minute-and-a-half title track was a garage rock masterpiece while "Homesick" and "Mary Jane" were blissfully sweet melodic ballads. Highly Evolved was a solid, radio-friendly album.
Fast forward to now, with the release of the Vines' sophomore album. Quite simply, Nicholls' insane persona and unhealthy lifestyle seems to have taken its toll on the man. Winning Days is a bizarre and disappointing effort, if you can call it an effort.
The single and opening track "Ride," catchy and stupidly meaningless, shows a band clearly on autopilot. I would bet it only exists because the record company wouldn't let the band release the only sincere-sounding song on the album, "F*** the World," as a single.
"Animal Machine" and "TV Pro" are nonsensical and somewhat disturbing. There are no actual words in the chorus of "TV Pro," just nonsense noises, but this inane ranting is catchy enough to be a highlight of the album. When "Evil Town" rolls around, it is tempting to think that the Vines have set out to make its version of Nirvana's famously abrasive In Utero.
The second half of the album is less scary, as the Vines delve into slow melodic territory. But it's not particularly great either. The word that best describes ballads like "Amnesia" and "Sun Child" is listenable.
Admittedly, the album-closing "F*** the World" has some merit as a balls-out, attitudinal rock anthem. But then again, so do about five better songs on Highly Evolved.
Nicholls perhaps says it best himself, although his lyrics are generally best left ignored. In "Autumn Shade II," a sequel to a song from the previous album (never a good idea anyway), he mumbles "I'm succeeding to speak like I'm f***ing mad," and on "Amnesia," he proclaims "I cannot remember my own sanity."
Winning Days is probably not worth your time, unless you think you might be interested in the rantings of a deranged madman.
Rating: 1 Polar Bear (of 4)
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