Craig Nicholls returns with a double LP of Nirvana-indebted goodness
Did someone mention a grunge revival? This sounds like a job for Craig Nicholls! Though The Vines were a good 10 years too early trying to be the new Nirvana in 2002, their quiet/loud Cobain-isms make far more sense in an age where Menace Beach could be their Pumpkins and Wolf Alice their Breeders, their ’60s pastoral psych element sounding positively prescient. And here they are, bang on cue, instant kings of the scene they’d always predicted, toting a 22-track double album, their ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’. You might think they planned their mid-career slump all along.
Twelve years and four increasingly culture-shrug albums since their debut ‘Highly Evolved’ have done nothing to dampen Nicholls’ impish vigour. “Shoot your gun!” he bawls on ‘Psychomatic’ like the maniacal mini Kurt he always was, “Everyone’s!/Psychomatic!”. Nor have The Vines turned noodle in their older age: these 22 tracks whizz by in well under an hour, few tunes bothering to venture into a superfluous third minute. The hand-clappy, barbie-sparking summer grunge pop of ‘Anything You Say’, ‘Good Enough’, ‘Girl I Want’ and ‘Reincarnation’ skip by in less time that it takes to properly kiss Molly’s lips while rockers ‘Ladybug’, ‘Everything Else’ and ‘Out The Loop’ are hammered home like fairground moles. Even lilting chug ballads like ‘Venus Fly-Trap’, ‘Truth’ and the adorable, ecological finger-wag ‘Killin’ The Planet’ are tight and economical; bar the odd throwaway filler like ‘Fly Away’, not a single welcome is outstayed. Surely a double-album first.
For all its stylistic solidity – despite featuring an entirely different line-up, bar Nicholls – this could easily be a lost Vines album from 2003. ‘Wicked Nature’ is a portrait of progression: album one – rich, meaty – is Nicholls’ first spot in the producer’s chair alongside You Am I’s Paul McKercher. By the (weaker) album two, he’s in full control and favouring a sparse, more hollow timbre that doesn’t help fend off the inevitable onset of soundalike grunge fatigue by the time you get to ‘Darkest Shadow’. A little more variation would have been nice, but you know what they say about stopped clocks…