Album Reviews

The Vines – Vision Valley

(EMI) UK release date: 3 April 2006

The Vines - Vision Valley 2004’s Winning Days was somewhat indifferently received after The Vines‘ über-successful debut, Highly Evolved. With third album Vision Valley and after two years away from the limelight, The Vines will hope to cement their reputation as a major force in punk rock, something that Winning Days failed to do.

The first offering from Vision Valley was the arguably confusing Gross Out. Clocking in at just 78 seconds it was, for some, a strange single release. In the context of the album however it is far more understandable.Sounding like a collision between Nirvana and The Sex Pistols, Gross Out perfectly summarises the kind of adrenaline fuelled, temperamental ferocity that has defined The Vines’ career thus far.

The opening assault too is rather fleeting, before you know it Anysound, Nothin’s Comin’, and Candy Daze have flown past in a mere five and a half minutes and we’re into the middle of the album. Anysound is a brilliant opener, based around a quirky, kitsch guitar riff it hints at a return to form for the wizards of Oz. Nothin’s Comin’ sees a disturbing verse swell to classic Vines territory for the chorus where Nicholls’ guitar sounds like it’s just made the transition from caged animal to wild beast. Candy Daze is again boisterous in nature and sees the employment of a retro sounding organ to add a different element to the sometimes predictable Vines sound.

It isn’t until the title track that we see some respite from the anarchy.String-laden, acoustic guitar, beautiful. It represents a welcome dose of change after being half pummelled to death by the first three songs and exhibits a growing maturity in The Vines’ songwriting.

Other highlights include the rampant Don’t Listen To The Radio, Fuk Yeh, and Dope Train. Take Me Back is another go at something more downtempo but rapidly grows tiresome and is ultimately disappointing, whilst Going Gone is highly reminiscent of Highly Evolved’s Autumn Shade.

If one thing is underlined, highlighted, and spelt out in capital letter sits that The Vines are very much better at raw, rowdy, energetic rock songs than they are at slowed-down, stripped-down ballads – which just sound void of any real passion. It’s as if The Vines are writing these songs because they feel they have to, not because they want to, but if they’re going to sound as half-arsed as they do then why not stick to what they do best and release an album full of frenzied anarchic rock songs?

It is, however, brilliant to hear the voice of Craig Nicholls again, his spasmodic, snotty delivery more spasmodic and snotty than ever, a “fuck you” delivery sneered to anyone in its path. His voice is something drastically underrated by the media and the public alike, but can you really imagine The Vines without the voice of Nicholls?

Apart from developing on the stock Vines sound a bit, Vision Valley doesn’t really offer anything new or exciting. There’s nothing here that you can’t obtain from either of the previous albums and it’s still some way off the musical gem that is Highly Evolved. That record is poppy by comparison, with an unexpected slow burn that renders it still exciting today. Vision Valley’s biggest problem is that it has very few songs that grab you and bury themselves in the core of your memory. Could be better.

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More on The Vines
The Vines – Wicked Nature
The Vines – Vision Valley
The Vines – Winning Days
The Vines – Highly Evolved