Focused, coherent, connected - not words you'd have expected to apply to the Vines' comeback album, which arrives 18 months after singer Craig Nicholls' Asperger syndrome diagnosis. The press release makes such lurid play of his condition ("deranged yelps", "wailing wreck") that it seems miraculous he even persisted in writing songs, let alone was able to turn them into possibly the best 31 garage-rock minutes you'll hear this year. This (rather than their mediocre second album) should be taken as the follow-up to their hyped-to-the-heavens 2002 debut, because with Vision Valley the Vines fulfil the promise they showed as the former "Australian Strokes".
After 2004's lackluster Winning Days and Craig Nicholls' subsequent breakdown, it certainly seemed like the Vines were never to be heard from again. Surprisingly, though, the band persevered: Nicholls was diagnosed with and treated for the neurobiological disorder Asperger's Syndrome, and guitarist Ryan Griffiths and drummer Hamish Rosser stuck by him (bassist Patrick Matthews left to play with Youth Group). The trio recorded Vision Valley in a few small studios around Sydney, and the album has the back-to-basics sound of a band getting back on its feet again.