Two years after their single "Get Free" seemed to be everywhere in one form or another, the Vines returned with their unfortunately named second album, Winning Days. A textbook case of the sophomore slump, the album lacks the hooks, melodies, and enthusiasm that made Highly Evolved a promising debut. On that album, it seemed that the Vines were up for anything, even if the overexposure of their singles and singer Craig Nicholls' bratty behavior soured opinions of the Vines and Highly Evolved in retrospect. However, the criticisms leveled against the Vines by their detractors -- that they were just aping Nirvana and didn't have ideas of their own -- apply far more to Winning Days than their debut. The album opens with "Ride" and "Animal Machine," two half-hearted concessions to their successful but less interesting hybrid of grunge and garage rock. Aside from some slightly more complex song structures, these songs just aren't particularly notable or memorable; at least Highly Evolved's most Kurt Cobain-worshipping moments had solidly catchy hooks. Winning Days' flat opening wouldn't be so bad if the rest of the album made up for it, but once again the Vines fail to deliver. The rest of the album delves into the pop side that made the band seem a little deeper and more diverse than some of its rock revivalist contemporaries; this is still the side of the band that produces the most substantial music, but this time around the returns are greatly diminished. "TV Pro" mixes the trippy and rocking aspects of the band's sounds fairly well, but its impact is thwarted by the syrupy production that coats most of Winning Days. Pretty, jangly ballads such as the title track and "Rainfall" also fall victim to glossiness and fussiness, yet manage to sound strangely unfinished at the same time. Most egregiously, "Autumn Shade II" comes across as a cover of Highly Evolved's "Autumn Shade" instead of its sequel, its title telegraphing the dearth of ideas on the rest of the album. As disappointing as Winning Days is, it's not a total loss. "She's Got Something to Say" might be slight, but its '60s pop pastiche is still entertaining, and "Fuck the World," a live favorite that might as well be a Highly Evolved outtake, is brash and simplistic, and therefore one of the most immediate songs here. It's far more gripping than the expansive psychedelia of "Amnesia" or "Sun Child," which sounds a bit like a granola-fed Oasis ballad, neither of which make much of an impression. Winning Days is definitely a departure; it leaves behind not only the melodies but the messiness and ambition that made the Vines distinctive -- if only for a moment.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares