Alright, it's official: I, Zachary Colin Hoskins, am too goddamn old for the Vines.
It's an announcement, frankly, that I've put off for too long. My feelings of ambivalence for the Australian "garage rockers" have been brewing beneath the surface since before the release of their second album, 2004's Winning Days, but I've ignored them out of a kind of rosy-colored nostalgia. See, the Vines were one of the two or three bands who, in the summer of 2002, made me really, passionately care about music again (take a wild guess who the others were). I heard two of their songs, "Get Free" and "Outtathaway," on college radio a week before their release, and my naive teenage mind was blown away. The day their debut album, Highly Evolved, hit stores, I was among the first in line; and when the Vines came to East Grand Rapids that December, it was my very first show in a (reasonably) small club. Not long afterwards, my friend Bryan and I were setting up guitar and drums in the high school cafeteria during lunch time to perform some truly "garage" instrumental renditions of "Get Free" alongside such New Rock chestnuts as "Hate to Say I Told You So" and "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground."
These aren't memories I'm ashamed of — God knows plenty of high school seniors were listening to a lot more embarrassing stuff at the time. On the contrary, in 2002 and 2003, the Vines gave me a lot of pleasure. But there comes a time for everyone when tastes change. Bands that seemed like the second coming in more impressionable years fade away to merely pleasant, then lightweight and disposable. I call it the "Weezer Effect." And now — a little less than four years after I fell in love with Craig Nicholls and mates — I've developed a Class A case.
So here's the question that's bothering me: is the reason why I enjoy Vision Valley so much less than Highly Evolved because it is truly a worse album, or is it because the Vines were never so hot in the first place? To be honest, it's a bit of a tough call. There's certainly nothing on this new record with the same immediacy as, say, "Ain't No Room" or "Autumn Shade." A side-by-side comparison of Nicholls' lyrics (never his strong point, diplomatically speaking) reveal a sharp increase in clunkers since the debut, as well. I'm not here to say that "In the Jungle" or "Homesick" are Leonard Cohen-calibre stuff, but Vision Valley's "Futuretarded" and "Spaceship" are just outright lazy - that and about the best arguments against printed rock lyrics I can imagine. Sample verse: "In the beginning / Or the old days / Surreal lives and mine are strange / Oh yeah I say / It's like futuretarded."