The Vines Highly Evolved

[Capitol; 2002]

Styles: garage rock, alternative rock,
Others: The White Stripes, The Hives

Disclaimer: I am a business student who hopes to revolutionize the world of finance. I have a kick-ass cd collection.

You can imagine the predicament I find myself in these days at the record shops. I have to justify every goddamn cd purchase in my head using ridiculously different benchmarks. Cost versus enjoyment...quality versus should see the looks I get when I ask for student discounts at my favorite stores.

None of this matters to most of you, of course. I live in New York City. So when I tell you that I picked up the debut cd from The Vines for $5.99, brand new at J&R Music World, it really doesn't do much for you. Regional sales probably have the cd around $7.99 or so. Telling you that I got a better price won't make you feel any better. I may hate major label music but this new budget-pricing for new artists really sucks me in. I feel like such a cheap whore.

The Hives...err...The Vines are the latest band to save us yet again. Despite all of the exposure the band has received in the past month leading up to the release of Highly Evolved, it turns out the band has been hiding out in an LA studio for the past six months recording this album. The work seems to have paid off rather well. For a very young band (Singer/Guitarist Craig Nichols is 24 years old), Highly Evolved sounds remarkably veteran which is either due to the production of Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Foo Fighters) or due to the band carrying it's idols on it's sleeves (Nirvana, Nirvana, Nirvana).

The band has gotten lumped in with all of the other saviors of rock (The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Blah) but that's only because it's easier to place them with something you've heard recently. Mentioning that The Vines sound more like Nirvana with a jones for Pavement and Elliott Smith would mess up all sorts of marketing strategies as the latter two were mainstream music bombs. But when I listen to tracks like "Mary Jane" or "Homesick," all I hear are strains of Smith's 1999 release, XO. A very believable Beatles-esque piano lines many of the ballads with rather generic lyrics like: "Nothing's gonna save you out there."

I figured the time would come when bands with members around my age would find it hard to develop their own sound when they were so influenced by the amazing music that's come out before them. "Factory" has the snotty-nice boy charm that just screams Supergrass. And please tell me that the opening guitar riff of "In The Jungle" doesn't remind you of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper."

Possibly my least favorite tracks are the radio singles of 'Get Free' and the title track. The listener gets the impression that Craig Nichols is trying pretty hard to be an angst-filled smart-ass but comes off like most of us...straight poseurs. The album features some excellent slower songs that show a singer with an actual voice...there's no need for alterna-sarcasm.

Highly Evolved is definitely split between loud anthems and subtle indie rock ballads. Coupled with a sale price and slick packaging, I have the feeling that I'm getting some sort of deal. That might be what the record label intended for, but I'd rather have an album that's a bit more original and organic. 1. Highly Evolved
2. Autumn Shade
3. Outtathaway!
4. Sunshinin'
5. Homesick
6. Get Free
7. Country Yard
8. Factory
9. In the Jungle
10. Mary Jane
11. Ain't No Room
12. 1969