Five Star: A look at albums
that are so good that they impress even the most cynical of critics. Very
few albums are superior enough to obtain a five star rating but occasionally
a band slips through the river of mediocrity that is the modern music industry
and they produce an album that restores our faith in the future of rock!
This series is a look at such albums.
I have to go on the record at the outset
and say that my expectations were really high for this CD. In 2002, I selected
The Vines’ debut album, “Highly Evolve” as my pick for album of the year.
At that time, and still today, I think most people missed the boat on The
Vines. While they got lumped into the same “nu garage” or “raw rock revival”
heap with The Strokes and The Hives, there was actually a lot more going
on with The Vines then simply reinventing Iggy Pop--or talking about their
crazy frontman. Musically, the band were very well rounded, going from
the raw rock intensity of tracks like “Get Free” and “Highly Evolved” to
the more Beatlesq “1969”, “Home Sick” and “Factory”. At that time, perhaps
the best description for The Vines would have been rawer Beatles or Jellyfish
meets Nirvana. Sadly, the hype caused too many people to tune out before
they turned on to what The Vines had to offer.
So it was with trepidation that I put this
disc in my player. So many bands have stood out with impressive debuts,
only to fall flat on their face when it came time to put out a sophomore
album. I’m happy to report that The Vines new CD “Winning Days” is a winning
follow-up. While it is not quite the standout that “Highly Evolved” was,
I admit my expectations were high and topping that CD would be nearly impossible
in my mind. However, The Vines did not suffer the sophomore curse and in
fact produced an album that clearly shows their evolution as a band.
That evolution certainly begins where the
last album ended. The two main musical focuses of “Highly Evolved” were
the “raw” rockers and the more “melodic” offerings. For “Winning Days”,
The Vines refined both styles but the focus is clearly on the latter. If
all you know about The Vines is their “rawer” material like “Get Free”
then you missed half of the picture from their debut album and most of
it from this album. The band wrapped “Winning Days” around that formula
with the heavy opener “Ride” (the 1st single) and bombastic closer “Fuck
the World”. Instead of the sharp turn they took for the second track on
“Highly Evolved”, this time they continued the momentum of the CD’s opening
track into the second song “Animal Machine”. But from there, they take
off in the other direction, exploring their more melodic and Beatlesq side.
“Ride” is your straight ahead raw rocker
with a nice hook. The Vines clearly knew what was expected of them as far
as singles go and they delivered. “Animal Machine” kicks off with a cool
guitar lead that basically carries the song. Craig’s vocals take the recognizable
pattern of starting light and then kicking into raw heaviness. In a lot
of ways this track is the offspring of “In The Jungle” from “Highly
The real magic begins with track 3, “TV
Pro”, a cool contrasting light verse to heavy chorus number. It begins
the The Vines trip into Beatles territory with an unforgettable exploratory
bridge section and rich harmonies.
“Autumn Shade II” like “Autumn Shade” is
The Vines at their most melodic. They continue their British invasion circa
“summer of love” tonally and with the introspective lyrics. This one checks
in at a slower tempo then the original “Autumn Shade” but really showcases
the other, less recognized, side of The Vines.
For the next track, “Evil Town”, the band
falls into Nirvana territory with the heavy intro, mellow verse and heavy
chorus but sonically it is a mix of Floyd and punk. The title track, “Winning
Days”, is pure pop Vines. It starts out a folksy song and then segues into
a middle of the rock pop rock song.
“She's Got Something To Say To Me”, with
the absence of the heavy guitars could be transplanted into 1968 and be
a smash hit. It’s has a very George Harrison feel to it, especially in
the lead guitars.
“Rainfall” is another one that harkens
back to the British Invasion or at least Coldplay’s take on the British
Invasion--a formula that was better executed with “Mary Jane” from their
debut. But they get it right on the money with the next song, “Amnesia”.
“Sunchild” is one of the most heavily traded
songs among The Vines bootleg collectors. And it crystallizes the band’s
Beatles influenced side. It really epitomizes how the people that didn’t
give this band half a chance, or wrote them off as another “the” band,
really missed the mark.
“Fuck The World” is the perfect cap to
the album and it’s one of the few times that the band really gets into
the nu garage territory but with more of a punk edge.
Overall, The Vines can be proud of this
effort. They had a lot to live up to and they delivered. While “Winning
Days” will not surpass “Highly Evolved” in the eyes and ears of many of
the faithful, it is an album worthy of its predecessor and hopefully will
allow more people to discover what they missed the first time around—a
gifted band that got overshadowed by hype and current trends and never
got the chance to show the world that there was far more going on with
the group then what they saw on MTV.
The title is appropriate--“Winning Days”
is a winner.
– Winning Days
Autumn Shade 2
She's Got Something To Say To Me