When The Vines first exploded out of nowhere with their Highly Evolved debut, it’s fair to say that a lot of people were very excited. Adrenaline-fuelled punkish pop such as Outtathaway and Get Free sat nicely alongside more relaxed, vaguely psychedelic material like Autumn Shade and Homesick, and the dreaded words “The New Nirvana” began to be uttered.
The fact that, since then, frontman Craig Nicholls displayed signs that his manic stage persona was spilling over into real life, with rumours of suicide attempts and band splits a-plenty, meant that Winning Days is an album that many thought would never see the light of day.
If anything, this album proves that the Nirvana comparisons were wide of the mark. Although the squalling feedback drenched songs remain, there’s also some definite harking back to the ’60s that show The Vines’ influences go back a lot further than a scratched copy of Nevermind. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it does so brilliantly.
Ride kicks off proceedings, and is a two and a half minute blast of pure energy. The opening guitar chord hooks the listener from the start and Nicholls’ lazy drawl perfectly complements the chaotic noise. As a statement of intent, it couldn’t be bettered. Animal Machine follows in similar vein, but it’s after this that things go somewhat awry.
Some of the band’s slower numbers are not as successful as they were on Highly Evolved. Autumn Shade II attempts to reprise the previous album’s track, only not half as successfully, while Evil Town is nothing other than a dirge. Only the acoustic dreaminess of the title track works well.
The second half of the album takes a rather strange turn into ’60s whimsy that’s light years away from Get Free and the like. She’s Got Something To Say is terrific, sounding like a grungy version of The Beatles, but Amnesia just passes by pleasantly, while Rainfall is something that you’d think The Vines could never be accused of – bland.
They pull things back though with closing track F**k The World, a fantastic, sneering slice of NYC-style punk that could give The Strokes a run for their money. It’s a great end to a frustrating album. Hopefully Nicholls can now put the Cobain comparisons behind him and show that The Vines are in it for the long haul.