How times and fortunes quickly change. Where once The Vines were heralded as being part of some new rock and roll explosion, they became its first liability and not even a doctors note could explain away the fact that the Vines were creating more headlines than they were music. Two albums and six years later, The Vines return with Melodia, a concise exercise in getting back to the lush acoustic pop and sonic exultations of their debut.
It would be easy to dismiss album opener “Get Out” as a two minute rewrite of the one minute and change hit “Get Free” and placed as such to reel listeners in, but that would be unkind. Producer Rob Schnapf who helmed their critically lauded debut Highly Evolved and its follow-up is back on board, aware of the strengths of the band and how to engage them. “A.S III” completes the “Autumn Shade” trilogy started on Highly Evolved, with its lazy strummed guitars and harmonies. It’s this melodic, yearning side of The Vines that has always been appealing, the raw screaming vocals seemed to sound more like a petulant child kicking against his crib. First single “He’s a Rocker” is an odd choice, sounding like an inverted version of the Beatles ska of “Factory”, with the guitar playing on the downbeat before changing gears for the singalong “all he wants to play is the rock and roll music” chorus.
“Orange Amber” is a burst of lazy pop psychedelia with a kindergarten chorus barely making it past the two minute mark, a point where most of the tracks on Melodia suddenly drop off, Nicholls either unable to fill the songs beyond their initial ideas or verse/chorus/verse structure. With the exception of the six minute string-infused ballad “True as The Night” which perched midway on the album is both the highlight and the point from which Melodia becomes Vines by numbers. There’s enough of the screaming rock tracks in which the Vines made their name (“Braindead” and “Scream”) but positioned between the woozy harmonies of the acoustic tracks they interrupt the flow of the album to the point where Melodia would’ve been more effective had it been divided into ‘quiet side’ and a ‘loud side’.
To find themselves with four albums under their belts must be something of a surprise to all involved, especially when considering the critical blanket that was thrown over 2006’s Vision Valley. But someone out there has faith in Craig Nicholls talents, and with Melodia there are moments where the band rise to the challenge, but given a decent studio and a decent producer, any band can throw a few Beatles chords over some garage rock riffs and pull out a couple of diamonds from the rough, and this is exactly what Melodia is, some diamonds, some rough. No more, no less. But no different than that you’ve been expecting from the band since their debut. Which, perhaps to some at least, is a still comforting thought.