Vines Highly Evolved 04

Here’s one I’d completely forgotten about, The Vines Highly Evolved from way back in 2002.  Back then the British music press, that bastion of hype free introspection and decorum, were shrieking at us about an invasion of great bands from down under, which sort of coalesced into the rocktastic Datsuns and the Vines, they both released a good LP, played a bunch of great gigs in this country and left.  End of.  Now I gravitated towards the leather-clad rockers more, followed them and pretty much forgot all about the Vines.

I shouldn’t have.

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Highly Evolved kicks off with the snarling 95-second title track, which made a great (if not great value-for-money) single.  This was the first time I’d heard a young band influenced by Nirvana, properly channelling them through their music* and I can’t recommend it highly enough, all the sneer and crunch you could possibly want.  If that was all the Vines were then that would have been great, but limited but they had a good few tricks to throw at us that belied their tender years.  They switch straight into the elegant, stately ‘Autumn Shade’, a drowsy 60’s-tinged wonder, dripping Hammond and boasting a swoonsome guitar melody line; quite probably my favourite thing here.

Vines Highly Evolved 01 (2)

Which sets the pattern for Highly Evolved as a whole, stroppy/swoony/stroppy/swoony repeat, well they were a bunch of teens.  ‘Outtathaway’ was good enough to make me buy it on 7″**, carrying just enough ‘No-one tells me to tidy my room!’ rage to toe the exciting/exasperating line expertly.  After the psych-tinged pop of ‘Sunshinin’, we get the heartfelt but a bit bland-ish, sun-bleached, ‘Homesick’, which is all very nice and melodic but a little Elton John-esque for my tastes, nice piano and all.  It’s a relief when the toddler tantrum of ‘Get Free’ lurches into earshot, propelled by the pounding of Joey Waronker on drums it’s a really cool mix of garage rock filtered again through Seattle – Grarage? Garunge?

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Honourable mentions must go to ‘The Factory’ a goofy fusion of reggae, Beatles harmonies and garunge^, it should sound horribly wrong, but just sounds like a soundtrack to long summer holidays full of Frisbee, beaches and lissome girls on blankets … (sighs wistfully, whilst remembering own lengthy summer holidays spent playing AD&D and coming out in spots in rainy Wales).  It really is ace!  The really rather fab ‘In The Jungle’ even copes a trick or too from Blue Öyster Cult and is all the better for it, holding a little psych menace in its’ grooves.

Highly Evolved closes out with ‘1969’, the longest track on the album, on which the Vines seemingly reuse every single element from the whole LP – there’s a rock out, a grungey bit, some garunge, definitely a chunk of psych, some BOC menace and loads grarage.  It doesn’t quite make it the end-all defining Vines moment it sets out to be, but it is damned good though and a suitable full-stop for the album.

The Vines made more albums but never again got the sort of exposure and traction that Highly Evolved got, well not over here anyway.  It’s a shame, this album had exactly the right mix of creative ambition and swagger that all young guitar bands should aspire to, the Vines had all the talent and vision that the likes of Oasis only possessed very fitfully.  Unfortunately, a NME clipping I stuffed into my copy of the album may hold the key, in print^^ they just came over as a bit intense and dull, nothing much to say about anything much, no big story.  They made a second LP that I never got around to buying and then started shedding personnel.

NME article
NME article

Never mind, remember them this way as a real youthful Technicolor blast, pretty highly evolved right from the go and a great summer soundtrack.

571 Down.

PS – Highly Evolved used to be in the 1001 Albums You Must hear Before I Kill You book, but appears to one of the ones that got shuffled out the pack recently. Shame.


*as opposed to bunches of uninspired drongos copying them wholesale.

**the B-side was a very cool cover of Outkast’s ‘Ms Jackson’.

^I’m starting to like this word now.

^^still important back then in the medieval ages.

19 thoughts on “Highly Involved

  1. Always did love ‘Highly Evolved’. Great album. And “The Factory” ended up on a CD mix I made for my wife to listen to in the car. Just a fun song. I haven’t listened to this one in years. I remember The Vines came out the same time as The Hives and White Stripes. On the MTV Music Awards that year(2001? 2002?) they had all three bands set up on the stage doing this Scott Pilgrim-like Battle of the Bands thing. It was so cheesy. I felt bad for all the bands involved, really. I guess time told which band won that battle in the long run, huh? Yep. Tame Impala.

  2. I own this on the evil silver disc, and it’s pretty great indeed! I need to spin it again, it’s been a while. Thanks for the reminder!

    Also, I hear a bit of AiC in that title track, too. Woot!

    1. I think there are millions of us out there who really like this LP, but never play it for some reason, okay so I’m extrapolating madly, but you get the picture!

  3. before I kill you? My goodness, what version of the 1001 book are they selling in Wales!
    Well summarized sir 1537, I listened to this early in the project and really enjoyed it. One of the ways I can tell it’s a good one? I keep going back to it, especially that 95 second opener, that’s how to kick off a debut!

  4. This is a cracking album and you sum it up nicely. I listened to this recently (after your post about yon Datsuns) and still enjoyed it a lot. The second album is good also – similar shades and such – but I never heard anything else of theirs.

    I believe one of them left (bassist) to join Youth Group? Never much got into them …

    1. Thanks J, it’s been a bit neglected by me, unfairly. I just love the mix of elements all topped off with a big dollop of youthful vigour. Gearing for ever!

      1. I don’t listen to it too often myself, but when I do I think “man, i should listen to that more often”. Garunge indeed … brilliant.

  5. Garunge! I’ve got Highly Evolved playing along to my iced coffee crackles…I’m diggin’ the stroopy/swoony/crackly summertime goodness.
    Thanks for the introduction, Joe. I don’t think I’ve heard The Vines before. Not on purpose, anyway :).

    1. No probs, glad you like it. If you have time seek out the track ‘Autumn Shades’ too, it’s a real cracker! Thanks for tuning in.

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