With their fourth studio album, ‘Melodia’ released somewhat quietly in October 2008 the Vines have been hushed since front man and songwriter, Craig Nicholls, was diagnosed Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism where sufferers show significant difficulties with social interaction.
Known for their energetic, inconsistent and destructive live performances, The Vines were somewhat unpredictable on every front. They gathered a global following and had chart hits with ‘Get Free’ and ‘Outtathaway’ in between unpredictable television appearances on ‘Later... With Jools Holland’ and on Lettermen’s well known US chat show.
The difference between outrageous and plain shambolic was dictated by Nicholls’ mood, whether he had had a satisfactory bong hit or whether a McDonald’s was close by but when the troubled singer was in the right frame of mind, they were almost untouchable. The rest of the quartet followed their front man’s schizophrenic vocal, moving from fast to slow effortlessly and kicking the shit out of their feedback-ridden instruments.
It seems the reason The Vines have slipped out of the limelight is largely due to their singer’s ill health. During the tour supporting their second album, ‘Winning Days’ (which despite the hit ‘Ride’ was not received as well as their debut) the band reached boiling point and an on stage ruckus prompted founding member and long time friend of Nicholls, Patrick Matthews, to leave the band.
With his departure creating a bassist size void in the group they rather quickly announced that the band was on hiatus. It was during this period that Craig Nicholls’ condition was diagnosed. This was followed by the news that the band would never resume a “normal touring schedule” but The Vines would remain a band nonetheless and still record (an activity Nicholls preferred to touring.)
The band stayed true to their word and in 2006 ‘Vision Valley’ was released (bass duty was taken by Andy Kent of You Am I) and The Vines returned to the stage with their new bassist Brad Heald. Their third effort showed glimpses of their earlier spangled rock n roll (‘Anysound’, ‘Don’t Listen To The Radio’) but rarely crossed the lines their previous successes.
After several live appearances from then on and with the release of their fourth album, The Vines are still very much here, they’ve just been hiding in the eye of their own storm. While they will never return to the, dare I say, genius of their first album, they’re still churning out fast and furious rockers with the angst filled squawk of Nicholls still having as much charge as his airy, floating and impudent harmonies.