THE VINES - VISION VALLEY
Apart from being the The Vines' third album, Vision Valley is the name of a recreation centre in the band's native land which "has grown into one of the most popular and best known retreat venues in Australia". The same could easily be said for the record itself. It must have provided Craig Nicholls with some solace in the form of a much-needed outlet for his tumultuous experiences in the past couple of years which have seen him appear in court for assault, be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and have childhood friend and band bassist Patrick leave the group.
Their sophomore release Winning Days received unwarranted scathing reviews from the press. Coincidentally, so did the 2nd LP from The Strokes, their fellow 2002 garage rock revivalists. In both cases, the backlash was undeserved and surely came as a result of modern day media's short attention span. Unphased by a few disappointed reviewers, Nicholls finished his loathed tours forever and returned home to compose an album which would get them back into the world's good book. And despite his biological disorder preventing the disc from being released in a flurry of lavish promotional stunts, strings of international dates or even interviews, the attention that Vision Valley has being receiving nonetheless is testament to the quality of the work he has produced.
As always, the vast majority of song titles could only appear on the back sleeve of a Vines' album, with 'Gross Out', 'Fuk Yeh', 'Futuretarded', 'Dope Train' and 'Atmos' being prime examples. And as with their previous releases, Nicholls proves to be living in an entirely different world. His lyrics regularly paint a picture of nature, the deterioration of the mind or simple curiosities that get his attention. But they're always detached, rarely referring to himself or real people and often not making any sense at all ("C'mon now let me feel the gross out ain't corrupting you"). But that's all part of their charm, especially due to the fact that his strangling Ozzie yelp often smudges the words into the music. It's probably no accident that the simplest and most understandable track on the record - Don't Listen To The Radio - was the first glimpse the world got of the new material. This is also the album's highlight, with cute handclaps and trodding bass leading into a giant catchy grunge chorus.
Elsewhere, the album is stylistically closer to Winning Days than the world-beating debut Highly Evolved. There are large chunks of sparkling melancholy like the title track and epic closer Spaceship. Country-tinged Take Me Back is a slice of summer beauty which could easily rule the airwaves whilst the sun shines. Another highlight is the aforementioned Gross Out, a 75-second long bloodcurdling scream, which is best described by drummer Hamish Rosser - "It assaults you. It leaps out of the speakers at 100 miles per hour." It leaves the listener shellshocked, but they'll find it smashing up things in their head later on in the day.
Some have viewed Vision Valley as a stopgap in the Vines' careers, a quick shout-out to rid of the rumours of their break-up. If that is the case, this album is perfect. And if it isn't, we can't help but feel that the Vines are only just getting started and their masterpiece is yet to come. In the sleeve notes, Craig is pictured reading a book entitled 'How To Be An Artist'. We should hope he picks up a few additional tips, because he's the kind of character who needs to be remembered.
Exclusive acoustic video.
The video for the new single.
Don't Listen To The Radio
A track-by-track video podcast.