Beatlervana Part III
If The Vines third album Vision Valley contained three songs, and those three songs were “Don’t Listen to the Radio,” “Dope Train” and “Spaceship,” one could have gone as far as to call the album brilliant. Each of the three are masterfully catchy rock in the vein of spaced-out Beatles or unhinged Nirvana. When they’re poppy, it’s infectious and fun. If they’re angry, it’s relentless and captivating. And where they’re psychdelic, it’s downright dreamy. Unfortunately, the rest of the songs on Vision Valley fail to live up to the outstanding caliber achieved by those few.Following setbacks such as original bassist Patrick Matthews bitter exit, the cancellation of a large tour and lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Craig Nicholls’ public announcement of his bout with Asperger’s syndrome, The Vines here seem unfocused, muddy and ultimately homogenized. First offering Highly Evolved was erratic and dangerous in a good way. The sudden shifts from track-to-track helped the varying genres feel fresh. The stale songs on Vision Valley are either aggro, succinct hard rock (“Nothin’s Comin’,” “Gross Out”) or sugary, tranquil ballads (“Candy Daze,” “Take Me Back”). Title track “Vision Valley” makes decent use of stringed orchestration, but never quite makes it to sublime beauty.
Without a stellar selection of melodies to enjoy, Nicholls’ often silly lyrics are harder to ignore as well. “Fuk Yeh” features pearls of wisdom like, “This ain’t the real world / It ain’t a fuckin’ thing / People are full of hurl / And so are all their friends.”
Craig and his Vines clearly weren’t completely out of ideas as the standout tunes prove; perhaps more time in the studio might have yielded more winners? Regardless, it’s hard not to see this as a small step backward.