The Vines, Electric Ballroom, London

Electric Ballroom, London

Back in 2002, the Vines were the big new thing from Down Under. Classic influences swirled around their grungy rock, shards of melancholy slashed at their punk attitude. Here was a band you could both sigh and scream with. Singer Craig Nicholls, with his urchin good looks, shredded larynx and punch-drunk stage antics, was a poster boy for instability.

Constant touring followed the success of their debut album, Highly Evolved, pushing Nicholls's fabled unpredictability into desperation. A dramatic brawl with bass-player Patrick Matthews during a show in Boston led to a slew of cancelled performances. At breaking point, the band sought refuge in the studio. New album Winning Days is the result.

Now they're hoping to put their past behind them - and most of their back catalogue, if their first UK gig in almost a year is anything to go by. They play 10 new songs. The problem is, no one's very interested. It's hardly surprising. Winning Days is the sound of band indulging themselves in the studio, with layered harmonies and eclectic rhythms. There isn't a song to compare to the hedonistic joy of Get Free or the psychedelic simplicity of Mary Jane. Instead, we're treated to the puerile punk of Fuck the World and the mid-1960s garage pop of She's Got Somethin'.

The crowd are little more than respectful. "Are you all right?" Nicholls asks. "I thought everyone was dead or something." Not quite, but as each sub-standard dirge rolls by, the expectation of a seminal gig crumbles.

Perhaps it's because we've now got the Libertines for passionate disarray and the Kings of Leon for thrash-about joy that the Vines sound clinical. Even Nicholls's theatrics are tired. He jumps, staggers and fights with his guitar, and he still roars on the unstoppable Outtathaway but his passionate yells have turned into parody.

As Nicholls hits his head with his microphone and gurns yet again, you can't help feeling that the Vines' moment has passed.

Contributor

Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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