The Vines, London

Monarch, London
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Bristling with aggression and flaunting perfect cheekbones, Vines singer Craig Nichols is throwing his guitar around, his back to the audience, his arms flailing. But since this is the 21st century, and guitars are expensive these days, he's allowing the strobe lights to do all the hard work for him, the dizzying beams of white confusing the scene just enough to make us believe that it's the real thing.

The Vines enjoy old-school tricks played with new-wave intensity. Wearing their love of melody on their sleeves, with a screaming dissatisfaction burning in their hearts, they aim for McCartney's tunefulness and Cobain's raw anger. By taking elements of the Beatles and Nirvana, they have come up with a sound that's charming in its tenderness and disarming in its energy. And they look great. It's the hair that does it - from guitarist Ryan Griffiths's centre-parted grunge affair to Nichols's indie-boy urchin cut. Add on innate, straight-from-the-beach Australian appeal and their NME pin-up status is assured.

Once the thrashy punk of Highly Evolved (their first single) begins, the fact they look a bit like your identity-seeking younger brother ceases to matter. Nichols's sore-throated yells invigorate as the rhythm ducks and dives, his frantic rock'n'roll riffs tempered by a wave of gentleness before the guitars splutter into life once more. It's all over in under two minutes and you're left feeling like the victim of a hit and run.

When they're not attacking our senses - or inspiring riots with the droning majesty of warped nursery rhyme Mary Jane - the Vines are out to seduce us. Autumn Shade is gorgeous, and drowsily slips into Beach Boys territory as Nichols cups the microphone stand, appealing to it, pleading with it. There's an acoustic twang to Country Yard, but if the opening line, "tired of feeling sick and useless", doesn't reminds us the Vines' heart remains in Seattle, a wounded yelp does.

It is like listening to all your favourite bands at once, and the Vines' fluctuating moods and tempos are all reflected in Nichols's face. The sunshine soul of Factory has him looking peaceful before, like a two-year-old suffering a temper tantrum, he screams, open-mouthed and eyes closed, only to suddenly stop and look at the ceiling, wide-eyed and wondering. His vocals range from high and fragile to demonic and pained. But it's in the stripped-down, conciliatory yet demanding cover of Outkast's Miss Jackson that true glory comes. An acoustic guitar is strummed beneath Nichols's slow, passionate rendition as the Vines swap hip-hop for angst and creep closer to stealing your heart.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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