by Clint Burgess
The Vines are for real. The debut album from this Australian trio is a collection of rowdy tunes that rely on a punchy rock swagger not typically found in a band with so little tenure in the music industry. The band was discovered in an L.A. recording studio and signed by Capitol Records. They have enjoyed relative overnight success and have become darlings of the British press. But don't let the hype fool you. If Highly Evolved (Capitol) is any indication, these guys are certain to be around long after the current garage rock revival has faded.
The comparisons to Nirvana are getting old, so I'll spare you the redundancy. The sound of this group is definitely reminiscent of the Seattle bands that once ruled the airwaves, but there are more classic undertones here that hint at groups like the Rolling Stones and the Clash. Singer and guitarist Craig Nicholls sports a raspy snarl behind the microphone, giving each melody considerable bite, and he showcases his ample songwriting chops throughout the record. The ultra-catchy and equally rocking first single, "Get Free," is an ode to independence and the absence of love. The song works in a buzz-saw guitar riff and an abundance of attitude to leave the listener in a blissful distortion-induced stupor.
The album occasionally meanders into psychedelia with tunes like "Mary Jane" (whose subject matter can be left to the listener to decipher). "Autumn Shade" has the same flavor as the aforementioned tune but is one part Stone Roses injected with piano flavorings a la the Beatles and finished off nicely with a swirling vocal hook. "Ain't No Room" hints at the edgier side of the Pixies and features a sing-along chorus that even the most tone-deaf enthusiast can wail away to. Staying true to form, the remainder of the album continues with more irresistibly raucous tracks remarkably free of pretense.
Chock-full of biting angst and nostalgic nods to punk's glory days, Highly Evolved embodies a rock spirit that has been lost on the many cookie-cutter bands that are flooding the airwaves with plastic wrapped for your pseudo-listening pleasure. As contrived as the music industry's handling of the garage rock revival may be, this sound du jour marketing is bringing exciting new bands to the masses that would otherwise be languishing in dive clubs -- and burning out as fast as they flare up.