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The Vines

Saturday, July 27

It's a journalistic convenience to lump the Vines in with neo-garage rockers the Strokes, White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Hives. But it also happens to be accurate. The Australian quintet fills the bill both physically (rail-thin, foppish mod haircuts, pasty white skin) and sonically (buzz-saw guitar riffs, scrappy tunes).

The Vines are led by singer/ guitarist Craig Nicholls, who met some of his bandmates while working at a Sydney McDonald's. Last year's self-produced EP became a massive success in the U.K., and the British music paper NME hailed them -- somewhat prematurely -- as "the best band since Nirvana." This, for an act whose first headlining gig was at a small Australian pub less than a year earlier. At least the Vines probably enjoy the comparison, as the Nicholls-penned material immediately calls to mind Bleach-era Nirvana, as well as White Album-era Beatles, punchy Beach Boys-style power pop and the ironic musings of Ben Folds. Then there's "Factory," the best track ELO never recorded, a standout cut that uses an amazingly hookish melody to describe dreary assembly-line life. All the songs come wrapped in primal screams, lush harmonies and succinct guitar and keyboard work.

While the grab bag of obvious influences guarantees that the Vines won't win any points for originality, the mix is regurgitated with an appealing spunk that hints at something greater down the road. Now, if only Nicholls could cease-and-desist his Brian Wilson/Syd Barrett delicate genius bit and his unconvincing carping about the pressures of instant success, the Vines might take root long after the inevitable next music trend gets noted in Newsweek.

 
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