The Vines

Highly Evolved

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They may be hyped by the British press as no less than the second coming of Nirvana, but on Highly Evolved the Vines offer something more interesting than yet another trawl through flannel-clad angst. True, the addictively short "Highly Evolved"'s primal beat and chunky guitars are certainly post-grunge, but not not in the boringly earnest, imitative way that bands such as Silverchair were -- the song's sludgy sexiness and tight structure also recall the '60s garage punk that shaped bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney. But instead of just capitalizing on that one (admittedly great) sound, on the rest of the album the Vines prove that their style is indeed a highly evolved hybrid of grungy, garage rock swagger, '60s psych, and '70s pop. "Sunshinin'" throws a Krautrock-tinged bassline into the mix for good measure, while the irresistible "Factory" sounds like Elton John and Supergrass collaborating on a response to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Likewise, their ballads mix their reverence for the past with their own youthful enthusiasm. With its tinkling pianos and sweet, close harmonies, "Homesick" is a fresh update on the AM radio sounds of Gilbert O' Sullivan; the gorgeous, guitar-driven "Autumn Shade" and "Country Yard" share deep roots in British pop. Unlike many other pop postmodernists, the Vines never sound weighed down by all the influences they include in their music -- it's as if they're so excited by everything they hear, they can't help but recombine it in unique ways. In fact, "Highly Evolved"'s relatively weak moments occur when the Vines aren't doing as much musical juggling: Straightforward rockers like "1969" and "In the Jungle" are certainly driving, but aren't as distinctive as the tough, pushy riffs on "Outtathaway!" or "Ain't No Room"'s wound-up, punky pop. Still, "Highly Evolved" is a great introduction to the Vines' eclectic style and suggests that they may have a more distinctive voice -- and future -- than many of their contemporaries.

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