The Vines – Wicked Nature

Album, Music, Reviews September 7, 2014

Originally published and still available at Gigslutz (01/09/14).

To announce your return from a three year lapse into obscurity with a double album seems quite a galling and somewhat overblown affair, yet that is precisely what Aussie band The Vines have done with their sixth album, Wicked Nature. Whilst its unexpected birth may well be a stunt that almost any PR cohort would relish, its inception definitely raises the eyebrows of fans, casual listeners, critics and cynics alike.

At a sturdy twenty-two tracks long spread across two discs (or playlists, for the more digitally inclined amongst us), it can definitely be considered a hearty labour of love for the Sydney three-piece and in particular vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and founding member Craig Nicholls. A recent interview with DIY would report that ‘if [Nicholls] didn’t have music [he doesn’t] know what [he] would do’, and on the journey through Wicked Natures, his desire and need to create becomes more than apparent.

There is a spasmodic and almost restless urgency through which the band whittle through the tracks and ideas that comprise this opum, with many of these songs being swift two minute bangers. Disc one is a full-throttle affair; from the chugging riot of opening track ‘Metal Zone’ to the 90s infused grunge of ‘Ladybug’, the bluesy ‘Killing The Planet’ to the rollicking title track, it quickly becomes apparent that The Vines are on form with their new efforts. Taking a trip to the second disc – which gave Nicholls the opportunity to exclusively flex his production skills – sees a remarkable change of tone, with the trio eschewing their heavier guitar sound for poppy sing-a-long anthems such as ‘Reincarnation’ and ‘Love Is Gone’, which sit alongside slumberly, chilled out numbers including ‘Truth’, ‘Slightly Alien’ and the whimsical ‘Clueless’.

It is an impassioned effort, one that is heartening given the four previous albums – which followed their 2002 breakthrough Highly Evolved – failed to leave a stamp in the press and on the majority of passionate music lovers. Despite this, there are some very obvious gripes to be had. Most prominently, it is far, far too long. There are strong and enjoyable moments to be had across both discs, but a tactic of ‘cherry-picking’ the best efforts from both to comprise an album of standard length (potentially with bonus tracks) would have been a far wiser decision to call. Whilst disc one is a high energy affair, many of the tracks do merge into a formulaic sequence that ultimately becomes forgettable, and whilst disc two succeeds in showing a different side to The Vines, in its entiretyWicked Nature feels like it is comprised of two completely different bodies of work.

As the tracks of Wicked Nature tick over, it gets to the stage where the listener feels as if trapped in a Vines-vortex, one that is crammed with rowdy nineties-tinged guitars and ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’. It is a mid-nineties groundhog day, and whilst this may be an incredibly fun detour for lovers of a riotous slice of rowdy rock, it would certainly be wise not to overindulge all at once.

Read more of my writing for Gigslutz here.

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