Review Summary: The Vines are back and their fourth album 'Melodia' is a well-thought out step in the right direction.
Back in 2002, The Vines were proper contenders. Coming out of the Garage Rock Revolution, their much-hyped debut album 'Highly Evolved' was seen as a consummation of what other bands on the same scene had been trying to achieve. Frontman Craig Nicholls equal love of grunge and 60s pop enabled him to produce melodically savvy, exciting songs that had everyone talking. However, after the commerically and critically disappointing 'Winning Days', which incorporated elements of sludge and country into the mix, and a disastrous tour, Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mental illness. The Vines retired from touring altogether, though the band bounced back without their bassist with 'Vision Valley', which established them as a going concern again. Nicholls had cleaned up his life-style, but it was his erratic showmanship while under the influence and the band's stoner ballads that had made everyone so excited. Would the Vines be able to make such engaging music now that singer Craig had calmed down?
The answer is yes, as 'Melodia' proves. It might not be a leap, but it's certainly a well-considered step back towards greatness. 'Get Out' sets the tone. The production by Rob Schnepf, while slightly syrupy, highlights Craig's insane gift for melody. His melodies are better than any of his contemporaries, and even better than some of his heroes. Craig is a 1st class melodicist, and his lyrics have become much more personnal and involving aswell, as he had earlier promised us.
Musically, the Vines can still be accused of being derivative of the Beatles, Nirvana, the Kinks and Pink Floyd. But the mix works so well because Craig is so intelligent and knows precisely how each of these bands work and what traits they have in common. This allows him to write without fear of being called a plagiarist. There's a particular string of about four songs in the middle of the album which are among the most poignant, beautiful and energetic moments on a 21st century rock record. 'True As the Night' begins the saga: it's a sting-laced, contemplative epic ballad that ranks amongst the garage rock genre's best. 'Braindead' is certainly very heavy, but it possesses a keen melodic oeuvre and an addictive riff. 'Kara Jayne' is an earnest love ballad, and is, other than, possibly, 'True As the Night', the best slower song on the album. Craig knows that 'MerryGoRound' starts off with the most pedestrian of indie-pop strolls, but it's chorus is incredible, and catches you totally by surprise. Again, it's dominated by the ubiquitous melodic strength.
The band itself is on peak form, as demonstrated by the instrumental 'Jamola'. It's as near as the Vines get to the more unhinged of their earlier moments, and sees the band, particularly drummer Hamish Rosser and lead guitarist Ryan Griffiths, showing their skills. That said, the album is not perfect. As I've said, the syrupy production can make some of the more energetic songs like 'Scream' and 'Get Out' sound sterile. Also, the album drifts off course ever so slightly towards the end, though it redeems itself with 'She Is Gone', another fine sunshine ballad.
'Melodia' should satisfy everyone, from fans to casual listeners, and its great to listen to at anytime. 'He's a Rocker' and the sublime 'Orange Amber' are for sunny days; 'True as the Night' is for the romantic sunset; 'Braindead', 'MerryGoRound' and 'Get Out' are for crazy parties. All classic albums are supposedly ones to let in, love and live. 'Melodia' might not be one to live, but it's certainly accessible and lovable. From 'The Vines', who seemed to be on the ropes just a few years ago, a result like this is a remarkable achievement.
Best Songs- True As the Night, Braindead, Kara Jayne, MerryGoRound