The Vines: Winning Days

The Vines: Winning Days (Capitol)

I must admit that when The Vines first album, Highly Evolved (Capitol), was released, I was somewhat skeptical. After all, The Strokes, The Hives, and The White Stripes were all doing similar-sounding things. I suspected The Vines would continue in this same vein, a backwash of punkish power pop melded with angry Kinks-ish vocals. To make matters worse, my reservations were also based on the fact that record labels were signing, hyping, and shoving as many of these three-chord, cookie-cutter bands as they could. I was wary because it was painfully obvious that this was the “now” sound and it was becoming trite and cluttered.

However, something about The Vines’ debut caught my ear. They had an attitude to them. They swathed and swaggered. They screamed, snarled, leered, and growled. Goddammit, they were a real band that wrote songs that rocked and touched nerves! This immediately superseded my assumed comparisons to The Strokes and Nirvana. Delving into the record was a pleasant surprise. Craig Nicholls proved to be a vocalist who could work with tasty guitar hooks. He also could get his bandmates riled up, creating pop songs with intensity, cohesion, and melody. Yes, The Vines were indeed fun.

Fast-forward two years to 2004. The Strokes, The Stripes, and The Hives are still around in an expanded field that now includes Jet and The Datsuns. With so many guests already at the table, you might think there wouldn’t be room for The Vines. Think again. This is the stage for The Vines as they release Winning Days, their second album. Although the hype, MTV buzz, and media frenzy has simmered down somewhat, this has not stopped The Vines from unleashing an unrelenting album.

After one listen to Winning Days, it is abundantly clear that The Vines want to be famous, stadium-playing rock stars with big cars and nice houses. The best example of this is the pounding, anthemic first single, “Ride.” “Ride” sets a loud, crushing tone for the rest of the album.

On the whole, this is a well-paced and well-constructed record. It doesn’t tire easy or give in midway through. The pace is slowed down somewhat with “Animal Machine” and the candle-flicker anthem “Autumn Shade II.” By the time The Vines start to rock again, on the gritty “Evil Town,” I was completely taken in by how big and massive they sound. Winning Days is has the great power chords that every proper pop song needs, but it descends into this great, chaotic, swirling bed of noise at the end. “She’s Got Something to Say” comes out swinging with a loud, raucous guitar into. It has heavy, loud percussion and a spastic bassline. “TV Pro” and “Rainfall” are solid rock songs, ideal for indie radio. “Fuck the World” ends the album where it began, with loud, expansive anthem rock. It is a frantic mess of Swervedriver-sounding lethality.

With the release of Winning Days, The Vines have grown leaps and bounds as musicians. The constant touring may have something to do with this growth. Nonetheless, Nicholls is lyrically confident here. He is a songwriter who is increasing his depth and range. He alternates from happy to angry to lovelorn in smooth, easy transitions. The band is behind him all the way, growing into the skin of a definitive rock band on the make. The Vines are going to be around for a while. They manage to wear their attitude on their sleeves without ignoring their influences or innovation. Winning Days is a much more enjoyable album than I expected. They have proven themselves to be a band with legroom. Unlike many in the music business today, The Vines have walked the walk and produced an impressive sophomore effort.

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