They were the next big thing. The next Strokes. Plucked out of Sydney and thrown across the cover of Rolling Stone. This was 16 years ago mind you, on the tail end when something like that really mattered. The Vines were on their way up. Saviours of rock ‘n’ roll. But they never got to those lofty heights.
They weren’t the next Beatles, another Oasis or a new Nirvana. But then neither were The Strokes. What went wrong?
Frontman Craig Nicholls had always come off as a little erratic. Most chalked it up to the fact that he was a rocker, a bit of madcap genius. Just another creative soul more than a little zeroed out on drugs.
Rock was back. The sound was electric. But Nicholls wasn’t well.
At first there were high profile accidents. Just the pressures of fame they figured. Then came the incidents. Craig abused audiences unprovoked and later became entangled in legal troubles. In 2004 he was diagnosed with Aspergers.
But by this point it had already began to come apart. The band stalled. If the world of music had a better track record of dealing with mental health, things might have gone differently.
The group never split but the fantasy slipped out of it a little. Craig became a virtual recluse. He claimed it helped him cope. A little like Syd Barrett but he kept the band. The Vines slowed down. But the band never stopped.
Miracle Land is their seventh LP. They burn through it, their classic sound. Perhaps a little more clinical, but still bristling with everything which made them great. Spacey ballads and intense rockers pummelled out of the psychedelic garage.
The Vines might not be hall-of-famers, but what is rock but refuge for the freaks? It’s about attitude, not adulation. ‘Slide Away’ says it all. All the sadness, anger and fear of bottoming out, but counterbalanced by a redemptive element of resolve.
They’re writing about their experience. All of it in one song. This outfit fell off the face of earth. Yet if that’s the reality there’s no other way they’d rather have it.
‘Annie Jane’ is the sombre reprise. To what? ‘Slide Away’. ‘Kara Jane’ too. Melodia, all of it. Highly Evolved as well. Again, everything.
Is it about a girl or that long past feeling that music once felt like it was worth a damn? That maybe it could change the world or at least your life. There was a dream but now it’s just another thing lost. “Gone is the wonder.”
Words by Riley Fitzgerald