Release Date: Sep 2, 2014
Record label: Wicked Nature Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Punk-Pop
Did someone mention a grunge revival? This sounds like a job for Craig Nicholls! Though The Vines were a good 10 years too early trying to be the new Nirvana in 2002, their quiet/loud Cobain-isms make far more sense in an age where Menace Beach could be their Pumpkins and Wolf Alice their Breeders, their ’60s pastoral psych element sounding positively prescient. And here they are, bang on cue, instant kings of the scene they’d always predicted, toting a 22-track double album, their ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’. You might think they planned their mid-career slump all along.Twelve years and four increasingly culture-shrug albums since their debut ‘Highly Evolved’ have done nothing to dampen Nicholls’ impish vigour.
When The Vines emerged in 2002 with the astounding Highly Evolved, they were described as saviours of rock music – no pressure then. In singer Craig Nicholls they possessed what seemed to be arguably the outstanding talent of his generation, a singularly gifted songwriter who blended his love of Nirvana and The Beatles with a thrilling confidence. But their career hasn’t been the smoothest of rides since.
Much has changed in the world of The Vines since they first made a name for themselves 12 years ago with their highly acclaimed debut album, Highly Evolved. Initially hailed as the “second coming of Nirvana” by some in the music press, the Australian band were certainly hot property at the time and were regularly featured along with the likes of The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Hives. However, over a decade later the band now only consists of one original member in erratic frontman Craig Nicholls.
Usually, a double album signals one of two things: it's either an artist's ambitious magnum opus or the height of indulgence. In the Vines' case, it is neither. Wicked Nature sprawls over the course of two LPs but it plays as if the band just jammed two standard-issue Vines albums together -- which is kind of true, as the two LPs were recorded at different times with different engineers, completing the second record as the first was being mixed.
The Vines' first album, Highly Evolved, was acclaimed in 2002, but the Australian band's success was followed by internal bust-ups and cancelled tour dates blamed on singer Craig Nicholls, whose erratic behaviour included his arrest in 2012 over a punch-up with his parents. Wicked Nature is fan-funded and independently released – and there perhaps lie the roots of its flaws. Nicholls' long-departed 2002 bandmates and a decent record company might have counselled against his co-producing the album, painting a faceless naked woman for its cover artwork and spinning it out to double-album length.
Way back in 2002, The Vines found themselves deemed ‘the saviours of rock’, after the success of debut ‘Highly Evolved’. Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out. Four albums later, and despite unwavering energy, Craig Nicholls and cohorts found themselves falling into obscurity, never quite matching that perfectly old school garage rock sound that once made them so exciting.
“It’s better to burn out than fade away”. You’d think Craig Nicholls would be familiar with one of rock’s most infamous, not to mention sadly influential, lines – after all, he’s spent most of his career trying to walk that same fine line between rock’s traditional heft and pop accessibility that Kurt Cobain stumbled upon. But then again, he’s also spent most of his career completely disregarding its central ethos: to wit, plodding inconspicuously along in a rut of dull homogeneity really doesn’t chime with the live fast, die young American firebrand ideal.