Sound — 3
Like many bands that were incepted in the post-grunge era, The Vines started as a group of teenage rockstar-hopefuls deeply inspired by grunge pioneers Nirvana; so much so that their beginning phase was just playing covers of Nirvana songs wherever they could perform. However, once the Australian natives had gone into recording original material, they would quickly skyrocket into worldwide popularity with their critically-acclaimed debut album, "Highly Evolved," and numerous publications would speculate that The Vines were the next breath of vitality in rock music. Things would stay the course with the nearly-as-satisfying follow-up album, "Winning Days," but after that, The Vines would start to tumble from their early apex. Their third album, "Vision Valley," would warrant a waning of the band's status due to its repetition in sound of its predecessors, and the following album, "Melodia," would commit the same mistake to bring the band to a point in their career opposite of their blockbuster debut days. The Vines would attempt to reconfigure themselves and try out new things in their fifth album, "Future Primitive," though that didn't bring the second wind frontman Craig Nicholls would have hoped for. Now, after a few years, some new bandmates, and a successful crowd-funding campaign, The Vines return with their sixth album, "Wicked Nature."
Because of the crowd-funding, "Wicked Nature" was released independently and completely intact of the way Nicholls wanted it; and seeing how he was always one to record many more tracks than were needed on past albums, it makes sense why "Wicked Nature" resulted in a 22-song double-album. Unfortunately, this juggernaut-sized album doesn't match up in strength. Whereas the previous "Future Primitive" showed more dabbling in neo-psychedelia and electronica elements, "Wicked Nature" has Nicholls going back to his two base song ideas: the Nirvana-influenced grunge songs and the acoustic-driven Beatles-influenced songs. This has always been an underlying problem in The Vines' albums, but with so many tracks this time around, the compositional overlapping runs rampant. Many of the grunge songs like "Metal Zone," "Green Utopia," "Psychomatic," "Out the Loop," "Rave It," "Everything Else," "Girl I Want" and "Darkest Shadow" are strikingly similar to one another, essentially because they're composed in the same formula as the band's iconic singles "Get Free" and "Ride," and the soft acoustic jams "Truth," "Slightly Alien," "Fly Away" and "Clueless" end up homogenizing with the overinvestment in Beatles-inspired vocal harmonies. The Vines end up hitting the target at least a few times: "Wicked Nature," "Into the Fire," and "Funny Thing" are the most developed tracks throughout the album, "Venus Fly Trap" manages to be the most compelling slow jam, and the short but trippy psychedelic interlude at the end of "Reincarnation" sets it apart from the cookie-cutter majority - albeit also being an echo of the band's earlier single "FTW." However, it's those numerous aural callbacks to The Vines' successful material that displays the biggest problem with "Wicked Nature": it doesn't offer anything that hasn't been heard before from The Vines.
Lyrics — 7
With the thin-spread status of "Wicked Nature" sound-wise, Nicholls fares pretty well in the lyrical aspect, and with many songs being as short as they are, Nicholls does an alright job practicing brevity - from the solipsistic "I don't need what I never got/I believe anything I want" in "Green Utopia," and the one-liner angst-justifier "it's your right to give them hell" in the caustic "Psychomatic." Tapping into his grungy recklessness, he sneers about willful lonesomeness in "Ladybug," burning bridges in "Out the Loop," and addressing his outcast status in "Everything Else"; and in contrast, Nicholls dons his gentle visage and optimistically croons in "Good Enough" and "Truth." Aside from the obvious environment-conscious theme of "Killing the Planet," the biggest theme found in "Wicked Nature" deals with the difficulty of human nature, and Nicholls confidently unfurls his own issues for this. The confessional "Slightly Alien" acts as a softer foil to the angry "Everything Else," and alludes to Nicholls' Aspergers syndrome, "Darkest Shadow" can be seen as Nicholls addressing the history of bad public behavior he's exhibited, and though Nicholls has written plenty of "addressing the girl" narratives in his lyrics, "Wicked Nature" shows him admitting the faults of his angst towards his failed love and attempting to turn the other cheek ("I was dreaming of revenge/but it only is pretend/so I forget about you").
Overall Impression — 4
How The Vines' career traveled is a strange one, and "Wicked Nature" shows a cycle completing out of order. "Wicked Nature" comes off as (or rather, is) a large collection of early-draft songs that would make sense for a rookie band to release - something like this shows that the band has plenty of ideas, and with some extra work, can be refined into something worthwhile. But with The Vines having shot for the stars in the very beginning, they skipped that greenhorn stage of "up-and-comers with room for improvement" and straight into "new prophets of rock." After the long and arduous comedown from the initial hype, The Vines try resetting things back to that first stage with the "high hopes, low expectations" demeanor of "Wicked Nature," but from a band that's been around for over a decade, the album simply comes off as overindulgence in underdeveloped songs that had no deliberation or editing stage it desperately needed.