It was bound to happen — a trend emerges, and major labels throw money into the hype machine to keep it going.
In the last two years, a number of “The”-named bands have scored hits by blatantly recycling garage and classic rock — the White Stripes with Led Zeppelin, the Strokes with Television, the Hives with Blue Cheer.
Now, Capitol Records comes along, convincing music journalists that the Vines are, like, really cool. “Beatles meets Nirvana”, so the blurb reads.
And it’s a somewhat apt description — “Get Free” does sort of harken back to Nirvana’s “Breed”, while “Autumn Shade” and “Homesick” are definitely haunted by the ghost of John Lennon.
“Outtathaway!” does kind of seem like some cross-breeding of the Fab Four’s early work with Nirvana’s more metallic moments, and that ska rhythm on “Factory”? Totally “When I’m 64”.
But if the Vines really are the Beatles meeting Nirvana, wouldn’t that make them Oasis?
To the band’s credit, Highly Evolved, the Vines’ U.S. debut, is well written. These songs aren’t soulless, five-generations-removed parodies of metal or punk or grunge. There’s some real attempt at craft and melody on these tracks.
But the hype machine is totally off-base with this one. The Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives pull off their rip-off act by convincingly replicating the swagger that goes along with their influences.
The Hives can be forgiven for not being totally original — Howlin’ Pelle does the effiminante Jagger strut really well.
But for all of the power chords, screaming vocals and hero worship, the Vines just can’t capture that timeless “It” factor which make both Nirvana and the Beatles the critics and audience favorites they are.
The Vines do indeed get something right — the Robert Pollard-like concise lengths of its songs make Highly Evolved feel breezy and urgent. There’s no metallic wanking on this album, and in a rock music atmosphere where metal is nu, that’s pretty refreshing.
If you must listen to the Vines, do it because a Beatles-influenced band willing to rev its songs up appeals to you. But don’t expect the band to flaunt the same kind of magic possesed by its predecessors.