Like a bad habit that you just can’t kick, the Vines have recently released their third and worst album, “Valley Vision.”
Perhaps it was optimistic to think that after a full two-year hiatus the band would show signs of growth or change. But instead of growth, the band’s new album shows a staunch adherence to their old game: song structures that are frustratingly derivative, musicianship that is appallingly poor, and lyrics that generally lack any creativity or artistry. One would indeed be hard-pressed to identify any strengths on the album. But in fairness, they are energetic. They are fast-paced. And their songs are mercifully short. But this act is getting tired, and the once-catchy songs are now dime-a-dozen repeats.
First consider the disappointingly poor lyrics. Despite an abundance of emotional energy to work with, the lyrics come up flat due to frontman Craig Nicholls’ horribly limited expression. On the unbearably immature “Fuk Yeh,” for example, Nicholls screams: “This ain’t the real world/ It ain’t a fuckin’ thing/ People are full of hurl/ And so are all their friends.” (First of all, was “hurl” honestly the only thing he could think of that rhymes with world?) Nicholls’ vocals carry an emotional weight that is just not substantiated by his lyrics. For a man who idolizes Nirvana, he has the well-affected grunge-yell, but is incapable of channeling similarly themed lyrics like Cobain’s impeccable “In Bloom.”
But even for those who choose to ignore the lyrics (which is always an option considering Nicholls’ inarticulate growl), it would be impossible to ignore the horrible musicianship. Most obvious here is the painfully repetitive derivative structure of their songs. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bad solo-chorus. Contrary to popular belief (this means you, Hard-Fi and co.), solos should not be guitar transpositions and repetitions of the chorus; they should be a novel and effusive expression of the song’s tone. For a perfect example of these problems please refer (at your own risk) to the Vines’ new clap-happy single, “Don’t Listen to the Radio.”
Lastly, the Vines need to stop writing slow songs. Slowing down the tempo and lowering the volume of a song does not make it more meaningful or deep. Slow songs on a Vines album are like slow dances at a high school dance — they’re horribly awkward and simply ruin the mood. Take for example the peculiarly long six-minute closer “Spaceship.” Marked by Nicholls’ patented la-la-la’s, the track has overly trite orchestral instrumentation and ridiculously repetitive structure. Also, the song clearly ends at the three-minute mark, but in a possible attempt to lengthen the mini-record, drummer David Oliffe bangs his tom-toms and sets up a poorly integrated encore guitar solo. Why? Because that’s what you do on sad songs. You have violins, pianos, cellos and extended solos. Duh.
It’s hard to understand how a band with so many faults is able to maintain such popularity. Hopefully, like any respectable fad, the Vines will eventually lose favor and their albums will end up where they belong: in a storage box, covered in dust, surrounded by yo-yos and cowbells.