- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

The Vines

Winning Days

Capitol/EMI Records

“I need to get around to finding where I want to go,” sings Vines frontman Craig Nicholls on the title track of the band’s sophomore release, “Winning Days.”

For a guy known as much for his mercurial temper, gear-trashing and drug habits as for his gifts as a songwriter, the attempt at self-reflection seems like a good move.

With “Days,” he’s moving away from Kurt Cobain and toward Brian Wilson and John Lennon. Take a look at the cover: Like their fellow Aussies in Jet, the Vines chose artwork to evoke the kabuki kaleidoscope of the Beatles’ “Revolver.”

Inside, the Vines find a satisfying balance between chugging post-grunge and pop-happy dynamism, with a dash of surf guitar to keep things interesting.

“She’s Got Something to Say” bounces with “I Wanna Be Your Man” brio; “Sun Child” lilts with “Across the Universe” fragility. “Rainfall” and “Amnesia” suggest the Vines also have become taken with the harmonic pop of the Byrds.

The nagging influence of Nirvana is still present here. “Animal Machine” tries to reproduce the formula of clean-guitar intro leading into mood-swinging stridency.

The dreamy psychedelia of “TV Pro” also shifts abruptly into Cobain primal screams, and “Evil Town” bogs down into a slow scuzz of droning guitars and feedback howl.

These are momentary lapses, though, on an album that relies on melody and riff-based hooks.

Along with the White Stripes and the Strokes, the Vines remain viable players in the turn-of-the-century sweepstakes of rock salvation.

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