In the 19th Century, Brits thought it was a very clever idea to send all those petty criminals to Botany Bay so they weren’t a nuisance to us any more. However, those convicts, the founding fathers of white Australia, were naturally not very happy about being shipped off to the other side of the globe. Today, the Australian dislike of us Poms has become one of our Antipodean cousins’ defining characteristics, and they take pleasure in finding ways of making us regret we ever sent them away.
There are essentially two ways in which they do this. The first is sending us a whole raft of truly dreadful soap operas starring bad actors who will soon reinvent themselves as pop stars. But the second method is altogether more cruel. The Aussies think it’s really funny to take something we’ve invented, like cricket, rugby, or tennis, and make sure that they frequently demonstrate that, even though we came up with the idea, they can still do it ten times better than us.
And now they’re at it again. It was us, care of The Sex Pistols, who invented punk circa 1976, and we were bloody good at it. But now young Aussie upstarts The Vines have come along – with their debut album, no less – to show us that we could be doing the whole punk thing much better than we have been, the cheeky sods. If you listen to the opening track, the title cut Highly Evolved it is a flawless example of energetic, post-grunge punk, seemingly chaotic but deceptively controlled. Though we hate to admit it, it’s damn brilliant. Even Kurt Cobain would have approved.
But then they have to go that bit further, and really rub it in. Because the track that follows this lacerating first salvo is called Autumn Shade, and is as laid-back, lush and harmony-laden as a song with that title should be. But, of course, this change of pace and style doesn’t work, does it? Well, um, actually it does – really rather well. In fact, it works so well that throughout the album the band alternate from track to track between raucous punkiness and those gorgeous slower, poppier numbers.
From first track to last, not a single note is out of place and the album is the complete article, a rich and highly accomplished musical experience. With lesser bands, the lack of respect with which they treat genre restrictions can mean disastrous results, but in this case it leads to something that glimpses genius on the horizon. It’s no coincidence that the album is called Highly Evolved: they really are on a level ahead of everybody else.
And the most exciting thing about those sons o’ pickpocket scamps is that this is only the very start for them, as in the future The Vines are just gonna grow and grow. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the results.