When Craig Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome back in November 2004 it prompted a rather queer week in NME Letters central. Sympathetic Vines fans, unable to locate an address for darling Craig, sent in get-well cards and in one case, a book of pressed flowers. It was as if he’d lost nine fingers in a threshing accident, and made for a rather ineffectual (if well-meaning) tribute for a guy who’d just discovered he was host to a permanent neurobiological disorder.
But for all their recent turmoil, it’s remarkable that we’ve an album so soon after his diagnosis. ‘Vision Valley’ is the sound of a band with nothing more to lose, a super-condensed portrait of their career thus far – it furthers their tested formula of sneering Nirvana-isms (‘Gross Out’, ‘Fuk Yeh’) coupled with sweeping psych-pop songs (the resplendent ‘Take Me Back’). Only now, they’re all two minutes long. Surprisingly, there’s little evidence here of The Vines’ recent career-turbulence, so anybody expecting a bevy of confessional numbers such as, say, ‘Waltz Of The Aspies’ or ‘Fuck The (Neurotypical) World’ will be left expecting. For despite its veneer of stopgap LP, ‘Vision Valley’ leaves us suspecting that, newly freed from the inspirational deadzone that is touring, Craig Nicholls may indeed find himself penning some of the greatest songs of the 21st century. The trick will be in the waiting.