The Vines
rockin haircuts
The Vines – Kylie Evolved.

Craig Nicholls – Vocals, Gtr.
Ryan Griffiths – Gtr.
Patrick Matthews – Bass.
Hamish Rosser – Drums.

The Vines hail from Sydney, Australia – home of Radio Birdman & spiritual capital of Antipodean Garage Punk legend. Nicholls, Matthews & original drummer, David Olliffe, met whilst working at a Sydney branch of MacDonalds (all members of the band thrive on McD’s food – hence later references to ulcers). They began spending their days-off honing Nicholls’ never ending supply of self-penned songs into vaguely beat-combo shapes & by early 2001 had over 30 of the damn things lying around their garage. They decided to name their band after Nicholls’ dad’s 60’s outfit; the Vynes – The Vines were born.

Sydney based label, Illustrious Artists, had been looking for a band to play support to You Am I - Jimmy Rodan (mate of I.A. label boss & You Am I drummer, Russell Hopkinson) suggested The Vines. The band were approached & the tour went ahead - The Vines had never been out of Sydney before but impressed all they played to. Illustrious Artists duly decided to release a Vines 45 & "Hot Leather"/"Sun Child" became The Vines debut 45.

By late 2001, The Vines had recorded & released their 1st UK 7" 3-trak EP featuring "Factory", "Ain’t No Room" & "Drown The Baptists" on Rex Records. The EP was given the thumbs up by all who heard it: a ready rubbed blend of garage punk, fab-four tuneage & Kinksian sub-ska skank (we even included it in our top 10 7" 45’s of 2001). A rabid UK press quickly fired up the hype-mobile & two-bob cunts from all over IPC land rallied to praise the shiny new future of r&r; rock & roll has been the new rock & roll all along, they surmised. Other, more independent hacks, began screaming corporate blue murder; another manufactured bunch of little rich? boys with professional management (Winterman & Goldstein) & big buck (Aussie Dollar) backing.

The arrival of 90 odd seconds of scorching sun drenched power melody in the shape of second 45, "Highly Evolved" (Heavenly Records – gotta keep up that faux-indie image for the UK, right fellas?), in the spring of 2002 only divided the critics further. The best/worst/most contrived new band since the last best/worst/most contrived band in the history of best/worst/most contrived bands ever – they said. We said – mmmmm, this shit rocks a bit, even if we do hate Heavenly Records, Bob Stanley & St Etienne. Closer inspection of b-side (from the debut 45), "Sun Child", provided the best evidence yet of the talent & song writing ability of Craig Nicholls. We were definitely developing a mild interest.

A few weeks later saw the arrival of the 3rd instalment of Hype The Vines To Hell Year in the form of new 45, "Get Free". The a-side, another slice of fuzzed-up Blueberry pie & custard, is menacing & attractive in equal measure – rather like being slapped round the head repeatedly with a carton of medium fries. Trak 2 on the CD, "Down At The Club", is a resolutely lo-fi back-porch strum-along boasting The Vines most affecting melody yet (proudly recorded by The Vines on their very own 4-trak porta-studio). If Nicholls can afford to throw away tunes of this magnitude on b-sides then forthcoming LP, "Highly Evolved", must surely contain more than its fair share of rustic feedback enhanced jewels. Surely?

Recorded earlier this year in LA with sometime Beck, GBV & Elliot Smith producer, Rob Schnapf – the sessions (guests included former Attraction, Pete Thomas) were soured by the departure/sacking (depending on whose press release you believe) of original drummer, Olliffe, & his replacement with Nevada Kinks (told you they dig The Kinks) tribute band sticksman, Hamish Rosser. Olliffe famously dismissed Schnapf as: "the biggest cunt ever". Nicholls also chose this point to draft in childhood best pal, Ryan Griffiths, on second gtr. The Vines corporate friendly unit-shifting machine was at last ready to do business, ship out the session guys, nail down the live sound & promote the LP.

Several successful shows later the words; frail, confused, under-nourished, hash, ulcer, junk-food-dependent & unstable were being hurled around reviews by major league two-bob cunts who really should have seen all the premature deaths they needed to by now (C’mon, Craig, it’s what Kurt would have wanted). Before the ink on their lucrative contracts had even dried, The Vines were being written into future rock history by eager IPC script writers the length & breadth of Kings Reach Towers.

The LP finally dropped onto the mat on a tepid Friday @ the end of June, by which time anticipation in this office had officially reached simmering point. An immediate straw poll suggested a cross section of doubters, haters & non-believers. Using the same straws we used for the poll, I drew the short one, grabbed the package & made for the headphones & typewriter:

The Vines – "Highly Evolved" – Heavenly Records – HVNLP36

"Highly Evolved" – Just over a minute or so of amalgamated influences already debated beyond tedium. This boy shouts & this boy screams & Ziggy knows he can sure play that gtr.

"Autumn Shade" – The Kinks drip from back of this cut like blood from a fresh wound. Decorated with effectively poignant piano & moody gtr shapes in the way one might brighten up a particularly dull office for a party.

"Outtathaway" – Garage-tastic next 45 – complete with Joy Division-esque gtr solo & the obligatory Aussie Garage Punk call to arms; "C’mon" (as patented by The Saints).

"Sunshinin" – If major playa shenanigans demand a 4th 45 from the pack this could well be the ace. Mid paced, under-pinned with subtle electronica & coloured by swathes of fuzz-chime gtrs. Nonchalant.

"Homesick" – Craig tickles the ivories himself on this ode to being dragged away from the bedroom, being forced onto planes & then being barricaded into expensive recording studios with engineers & session musicians on highly evolved wage structures.

"Get Free" – Already proving it’s mettle as a sterling grower on 45, "Get Free" fits into the extremely well balanced running order rather like Cinderella’s foot filled the slipper & only begs the question (repeated like a mantra by most professional hacks); so what is it we actually get free?

"Country Yard" – To point out that this trak has very bad posture & that the intro comes on all cherry flavoured ant-acids is just a touch spiteful & does not do justice to this very sublime & mature piece of song-writing (it says here).

"Factory" – That 2nd 7" 45 in a jazzed up, Pete Thomas drummed vershun that does nothing to harm the original except to underline what a stunningly simple but effective tune it is (in a totally pop stylee, obviously).

"In The Jungle" – Some might say this sounds like Oasis covering Blue Oyster Cult but no-one like that works here. "In The Jungle" is the sound of a very confident band who are just starting to believe their own press & have been promised a return ticket to Sydney in time for Christmas (ooh, by the way, you don’t mind the odd world tour or 2 before that, do you?).

"Mary Jane" – (Smoke) Alarm bells always start ringing in this office when a band start singing about dope (unless they’re taking the piss) – which, in this case, Nicholls does not appear to be doing. That aside, there’s a fragile, mildly malevolent spirit present here. The outro’s feedback solo has attitude & the tune grows up you like a hydroponically reared Sativa under 12kw of artificial lighting – if you’re not too busy being slightly embarrassed by the faintly passé nature of it all.

"Ain’t No Room" – Another fired up rocker with a debt to pay. Slips by at just over 3 minutes, which come to think of it makes it a touch long by The Vines (admittedly) high (in both senses of the word) standards.

"1969" – "It’s 1969 in my head", croons Craig, "I just wanna have no place to go". Live stunner & LP closer, "1969", rounds all the found sounds up & heads them down to the coral for the big finale. The massed gtrs of lost 60’s heroes fight it out with looped screams, a rising & falling tempo & some stunningly effect rhythm punctuation. Towering innuendo for a wannabe crescendo.

Conclusion: This is the sound of young talent being nurtured the only way money knows how. Another wheel falls off the hype bus & another marketing director in another kitchen shits his designer label jeans. Letting precocious & attractively dishevelled young things take their record collections into expensive recording studios in the hope that they may be able to work these found sounds into a coherent whole never works (just ask Boaby Gillespee). We were promised a rock & roll future – we’ve been palmed off (again) with a pop & slop compromise. Searching for nirvana in the rubble of Nirvana is like planning a holiday to Mars. Sounds like a damn good idea after the 43rd bong of the session, but in reality the enormity of the task is always going to prove insurmountable. Stoned inaccurate.

Marquee Smith – trakMARX.com – July 2002
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