(Self-Released) The Vines' latest album, Future Primitive, kicks off with a guttural scream from singer Craig Nicholls as if demanding in the strongest terms, "Listen to me." And, to our delighted ears, the entire collection is an excitingly irresistible listen. The Vines is Sydney, Australia's hippest Brit-Pop band, albeit not exactly from Britain but still under Queen and Crown in the British Commonwealth. To narrow things down a bit, on Future Primitive, The Vines’ leanings are toward a distilled Manchester, Stone Roses' edgy and modern guitar rock style. This is an album that will have you tapping out the beats and singing along with the anthemic-sounding choruses at top volume in your car, or walking down the street with your iPod as passers by look and wonder, “Hmm, what’s he so excited about?” A very cool collection, that’s what.
After their much lauded debut, Highly Evolved, in 2002, there were some fits and starts on The Vines' next three CDs, and a reputation for missing gigs and other mishaps, largely due to principal songwriter and singer Nicholls suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and all that entails. With Future Primitive completed a year ago but put on hold while the band shopped for a new record label, it appears Nicholls and the band have conquered their demons with a stellar new release.
Contrary to prior releases where the band had taken a less-is-more approach to the instrumentation of the songs, this time, they went all in. The Vines have come up with a collection of varied '60s-meets-'90s alt-rock music, tied together by a ‘more-is-more’ approach, with new instruments as sweeteners and some interesting sonic flavorings from producer Chis Collona and guitarist Ryan Griffiths. Future Primitive is their first CD to rival their debut in terms of consistency and the depth of likeability. There really aren’t any missteps along the way here. None of the problems, past or current, can be heard on Future Primitive. Several like-minded people put a lot of work and care into crafting the songs and sounds, and it all works.
By Nicholls’ own admission, the lyrics are of a personal experiential nature or just plain invention, as in the song, “Candy Flippin’ Girl,” which is purely made-up fiction. The band put the emphasis on a more polished, more produced sound on this CD, adding ambient guitar-synth and filter-sweeps a la the aforementioned Stone Roses -- a trumpet, a digital didgeridoo in one spot, and even sleigh bells and mellotron strings. You can hear real emotional angst in Nicholls' voice on the ballad “Leave Me in the Dark,” giving it the album’s most universal lyrical theme. “A.S.4.,” which stands for Autumn Shade, with the 4 representing nothing more than this being the fourth track in running order, is another dark, moody lament filled with a big sound behind the vocals. Ballads there are, but rockers sweet and hard rule the day on this album, not the least of which is the title track, “Future Primitive,” and the lead track and first single “Gimme Love.” “Cry” and “Candy Flippin’ Girl” are also standouts.
You’ll hear more musical nuances with each listen -- truly the mark of a great rock 'n’ roll album -- an album that hits you immediately, then continues to grow on you with a little something new each time around. It draws you in, and before you know it, you’ve spanned thirteen songs, mostly all under two-and-a-half minutes, closing with “STW” (Screw the World), a lyrically youthful romp. Don’t be surprised if you immediately need another go at the entire album, if only to decide just which is your favorite song among many choices. There is lightness of melody, passionate vocals, and infectious rockers, but no redundancies of style in any of the songs. That’s what will keep this CD among your most listened to this summer. A rocked-up Beatles for the new century? A classic? Maybe. One you’ll surely remember from your summer of 2011. A future, not-so-primitive collection that excites, moves, and will keep you listening again and again over many summers to come.
Standout Tracks: “Gimme Love," "Future Primitive," "Candy Flippin’ Girl"
For Fans Of: The Stone Roses, The Raveonettes, Jenny and Johnny