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An Improvement on Vision Valley, but that's not saying much.
on 3 June 2011
I looked forward to this ablum, I really did. Having been a fan of The Vines since NME proclaimed (perhaps unwisely in retrospect) them the 'saviours of rock' almost ten years ago I expected this to be a return to form after the disappointing Vision Valley and it is...ish. Let's be honest, Craig Nicholls has never been the most original song writer, but then the mantra of 'if it isn't broke, don't fix it' is one that stood The Vines in good stead through their first two albums (yeah, I actually think Winning Days was an amazing album). As a result this is more of what would best described as a more melodic Kurt Cobain singing John Lennon songs. The only problem is that whilst still delivered with the same sort of conviction and gravitas as always, the quality of the songs aren't what they used to be. As the title would suggest this is a far more melodic album than Vision Valley, though there are certainly tracks with their fair share of the balls out rocking which made the Vines a name in the first place (Braindead for instance). One only needs to look at the track titles though to see that Nicholls has run out of ideas to some extent (Kara Jane a nod to the far superiour Mary Jane from Highly Evolved and Autumn Shade III, which is nothing to versions I and II). Equally some of the weightless, atmospheric vibe so in evidence in Mary Jane or Amnesia has fallen away, exposing a blandness to the lyrics which was always there to some extent, but not always never noticeable. True as the Night is a perfect example; the beginning is plodding, the lyrics are almost comically simple and the strings sound misplaced, but then half way through it finds its pace, Nicholl finds his voice and it becomes a gloriously floating, musically stirring statement of what might have been. And that's the problem with this entire album, some of the songs are catchy, some of them are stirring, the harmonising on A Girl I Knew in particular is classic Vines, but there is something to complain about (lyrically, lengthwise or just musically) on all of these songs where there wasn't in 2002 or 2004. The problem is we all know 'what might have been' because Highly Evolved and Winning Days tell us so. If you're a diehard Vines fan who's spent the last decade defending them to everyone who jumped ship when Winning Days came out, then get this album. If you're not, then buy Highly Evolved and Winning Days, become one and get this before you get Vision Valley.