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The Vines - Highly Evolved

Best New Artist
Best Rock Album
Album of the Year

The following was originally published in our Review section. 

Review by Keavin Wiggins

We usually don’t post reviews over a month before an album is set for release but after listening to the advance of The Vines “Highly Evolved” I had to make an exception. I really can’t help myself, it’s sort of like being a kid who discovered something really, really cool and you just have to tell everyone who will listen about it. This CD is like that; it fires up my inner evangelist and makes me want to preach the good news of The Vines from street corners. Yes, I am being quite serious! 

Another good reason to post this review so early is the fact that the buzz about this group is about to hit critical mass and dare I say the hype that is expected to blowup around them may turn some people off before they even give the CD an honest listen. That would be a big mistake and the people who jump to that premature conclusion would only be cheating themselves. 

I anticipate that in the coming weeks and months we will hear a lot about The Vines. Especially the inevitable linking of them to groups like The Strokes and The White Stripes. Let’s head those off first. It is true that when The Strokes hit the national scene last year they became an immediate critical darling because their retro style and sound was a nice reprieve from the stale varieties of rock ruling the airwaves. Because The Vines also employ a retro atmosphere to their sound, they are likely to get lumped in with The Strokes but I would caution the reader against making that connection. For one, the depth of the music and songwriting on The Vines “Highly Evolved” album far surpasses even the best moments of the Strokes album. Two, the music the Strokes produce is far more limited in scope than The Vines. “It is like listening to all your favourite bands at once,” wrote Betty Clarke of the British supersite Guardian Unlimited. Betty hit on one of the key appeals of The Vines with that statement. As you progress through the sonic voyage of soaking in the album, you catch glimpses of other musical greats ranging from The Beatles to Pink Floyd to Nirvana to The Stooges to early Soul Asylum and many others. The Vines draw from many musical wells to write their own music and the result is a vast canvas in which they make their art. 

Determining that this was one of the best, if not the best new CD I’ve heard yet this year was a no brainer. From the first angst filled chords of the lead off track and first single, “Highly Evolved”, The Vines captured my full attention. The song has The Stooges meet Nirvana feel to it propelled with an abundance of melodic hooks and overdriven guitars. Clockin in at one minute and 34 seconds the song is over almost as soon as it begins, which makes it a really compelling option to hit the rewind key on the CD player to hear it one more time. But then the second song “Autumn Shade” starts and you decide to wait on replaying the first song. “Autumn Shade” shows a mellower side of the Vines and is the first introduction of the Beatles meets modern alternative rock you will hear on the album. The song actually sounds a lot like something one of my favorite unsigned bands Twelvehourmary might play. But again the experience is short lived as the song segways into the much heavier “Outtathaway” after only a couple of minutes. Here the Vines pay homage to Iggy Pop once more but unlike a band like the White Stripes, The Vines blend the Stooges influence with others like Nirvana that really helps it become far more than a copy of the Stooges. 

“Sunshinin’” comes across like an acid rock band that was suddenly transplanted into 1992 Seattle and transfixed by the grunge sound, incorporated it into their style while maintaining their 60’s rock characteristics.  The next song “Homesick” a ballad that sounds like it would feel comfortable on side two of The Beatles “Abbey Road” is a real highpoint of the album. The Vines mix of melody, exceptionally delivered instrumentation and harmonies on this song are just part of what makes this band so exciting to listen to and dare I say it, really helps them stand head and shoulders above just about any band on the rock scene at the moment. 

“Get Free”, a full speed rocker takes elements of early punk, grunge and 70’s era glam of the New York Dolls and gives it a modern spin. It really comes on like something that Local H or early Soul Asylum would write. 

“Country Yard,” another slower song has a psychedelic Beatles meets Radiohead groove to it that should appeal to listeners both young and old. With “Factory” we see another side of the group’s Beatles influence, a song that starts out as a look back at John Lennon’s “Mr. Kite” from “Sgt Peppers”, the Lennon influence in the vocals is uncanny. If it wasn’t for the heavier guitar driven interludes some people might actually mistake this song for a long lost track from the “Sgt. Peppers” sessions. The working class sentiments of the lyrics also tie the song in with Lennon in spirit. 

“In The Jungle” spans the decades as well with heavy late 60’s undercurrent and modern alternative rock face that makes it similar to the music of bands like The Posies but with a bit more balls. 

“Mary Jane” has a real trippy feel to it, the vocals, bass and guitar sound unmistakably like “Dark Side of Moon” era Pink Floyd, which is a really stunning achievement as not many bands can pull off Pink Floyd’s style without sounding contrived. Every time this song comes up, I have to hit repeat a couple of times, it’s that good! 

“Ain’t No Room” is the most modern sounding song on the album, the heavy guitars and vocals sound a bit like Nirvana but it also mixes The Vines 60’s influences, so it stays in character with their other songs. “1969” gets to the heart of the matter, a song where the Vines unabashingly admit their deep love for the music of the late 60’s with lyrics like, “It’s 1969 in my head / I just want to have no place to go / Living through the sound of the dead”. The sound is a clever mix of the Beatles and Pink Floyd with a bridge that falls into Iggy Pop territory. This is a really a love song written to an era of music that the band obviously loves. 

Unlike other bands that borrow from The Beatles like Oasis, The Vines didn’t lift the sound from the Fab Four intact; they take the best elements of many artists and recraft them into their own sound. It may be 2002 but The Vines make you wish it were 1969 again. For those of us who were too young to live through the real era of the late 60’s, this is the next best thing. It’s time that music from a major label stretches the boundaries of what is expected and voyages beyond the pop-rock constraints of modern radio friendly music. The Vines are quite simply one of the best new bands to hit the music scene in years. These four guys from Australia have the makings of superstars and as James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers recently said, The Vines are “'absolutely f***ing amazing.” Bloody well right! 

CD Info 

The Vines – Highly Evolved
Label: Capitol 
Release Date: 7/16/02
Highly Evolved
Autumn Shade
Get Free
Country Yard
In The Jungle
Mary Jane
Ain’t No Room
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

Visit the official website for The Vines to learn more about the band and check full length audio and videos from the cd.

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