The Vines, Academy, Manchester

Academy, Manchester

No one understands hype better than the Vines. Launched in a blaze of hyperbole earlier this year, they have been called everything from the "Australian Strokes" to the "new Nirvana". Now that riotous rock'n'roll with punch-ups and disturbance begins and ends with the tiring Oasis, the rock'n'roll elements of the music business are praying that the Vines are saviours.

June's Highly Evolved album went in at number three, and while subsequent singles have only grazed the top 30, it's still a surprise to discover that the Manchester Academy isn't anywhere near full. However, frontman Craig Nicholls isn't fazed. He races to the front of the stage, holds his guitar at the back of his head and then brings it down, shimmering in the strobe lights. It's a compulsive performance, but one that ultimately rings hollow.

The spark at the centre of the band's hurricane, Nicholls dominates the Vines' set to the point where this is virtually a solo performance. Apparently prone to extreme mood swings, he has been dubbed the "new Kurt Cobain" and has a similar voice of sand and glue. And yet, where Cobain was a creature of instinct, Nicholls's act seems staged. He takes his top off early - more Jon Bon Jovi than Nirvana - and at one point crouches, making as if to attack his guitar, only to get up the instant the song ends. His favourite vocal trick - the Cobain guttural howl - is used so often it becomes more cartoonish than cathartic.

Musically, the band seem most comfortable playing languid, psychedelic rock, but seem obliged to pepper their set with garage rockers that suit the Strokes/ White Stripes climate more than the band's own instincts. Mary Jane is hallucinatorily superb, but ultimately the Vines sound unfortunately like Kula Shaker, who rode a similar 1960s-raiding, self-mythologised path to brief stellar glory before frontman Crispian Mills was exposed as a buffoon.

Will the same fate befall the Vines? In a closing freak-out, Nicholls carefully switches the guitar he has been playing all night for one that he hurls into the drum kit. Then he brings the cymbals crashing down around him - but noticeably stops short of causing any significant damage. To coin the Strokes' album title: is this it?

· At Nottingham Rock City (0115-958 8484) tonight, then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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