Never forget The Vines
Their debut album Highly Evolved meant something to music
In the days where MTV was still relevant, ushering music out to a susceptible audience, numerous bands were brought to the forefront of conversation. Most of these acts were nothing special, falling into the one-hit wonder category of music, but some bands creaked through MTV’s floors as something actually worth listening to. One of those bands was The Vines, in particular their debut album Highly Evolved. They were loud. They murmured through songs. They didn’t give a fuck.
Highly Evolved’s success was a combination of artistic passion through appreciation of Nirvana and The Beatles, cycled in with record company/music industry greed, but it just so happens to be a great record overall. Consider Highly Evolved to be an influential album, even. For example, Joyce Manor’s 2016 album Cody, produced by Rob Schnapf, the same man who produced Highly Evolved, is a delight in its mumbles and heavy sounds. Japandroids followed-suit with their punk/grunge sound as well, and even the dynamic band Brand New has some Vines influence.
Although, it’s not hard to have “Vines influence” as that influence is just the sound of Nirvana or The Pixies. However, The Vines brought that loudness with “Get Free,” the crass guitar riff that is so simple that it demands attention, to the mainstream. “Get Free,” the breakout single that was in huge rotation on MTV, played live on Letterman, Conan, and Jools Holland in 2002, stood tall in its two minutes of length. It wasn’t “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it wasn’t “Celebrity Skin” or “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” but goddamn it infected listeners and brought the debut album to platinum status.
At the time, the biggest rock bands were entering their dad-rock stage or were pop punk darlings like the teenaged Blink-182 or Green Day, who was still unsure of their direction pre-American Idiot. Of course, indie rock was about to get a boost with The Strokes’ Is This It while Interpol was copying Joy Division with Turn On The Bright Lights, and The Vines’ own competition, The Hives, were releasing solid rock n’ roll songs (and still very much are) rubbed off by The Rolling Stones and hard rock from the ‘70s, so any band that entered the lexicon was going to be discussed, dissected, and blown way out of proportion. To this day The Strokes wear the heavy crown of Rock Saviors, much to their dismay.
The Vines were integral to music in 2002. Granted, they weren’t essential but their influence is still heard. The fact that a weird, cacophonous rock group from Australia could grace the radio with a song called “Outtathaway!” meant that any band even resembling The Vines stood a chance. Highly Evolved meant something. If The Strokes proved that a garage group could get beyond the neighborhood, and Interpol showed an artistic side to indie rock, then The Vines confirmed that none of that matters and you can just scream off-key and make shit awesome.