Depending on what song from their new album, Winning Days, is playing, the Vines are snotty, post-grunge rockers; ambitious, psychedelic poppers, jangly pop torchbearers; or heavy metal hotheads.
Because the bandmembers are all too aware of the schizophrenic aesthetic, they're the first to admit that their second album isn't for everyone.
"We've rolled a mixed bag," singer Craig Nicholls said. "There's a lot of country rock, and there's also a lot of heavy metal, which is untraditional, but we never think of traditional when we are playing in the Vines. So maybe [Winning Days] will confuse some people. Some people are going to like it. Some people are going to love it. Some people are going to hate it. And some people are going to be so angry they'll want to hit us on the streets."
For fans who embraced the Vines' debut, 2002's Highly Evolved, to the tune of 656,000 copies sold, the eclecticism of Winning Days, released Tuesday, shouldn't come as much surprise. Where that album bounded from shimmering Brit-pop to slapdash garage rock, so does its follow-up. But for as much as the songs on each album differ from each other, the two albums are remarkably a lot alike.
Highly Evolved's breakthrough single, "Get Free," drew immediate links to Nirvana, and their new single, "Ride," doesn't do much to sever those ties. And where "Factory" touched upon dreamy pop, so does the new song "TV Pro." There's even an update of "Autumn Shade," appropriately titled "Autumn Shade II," on the new album.
"If people are expecting the whole album to be heavy, or in one manner, they're going to be disappointed," Nicholls said. "There's stuff on there that is like the Beatles or the Kinks. There's really as much Beatles or Pavement as there is Nirvana."
Nicholls said his band's diversity stems from the music that had the greatest impact on its members: Nirvana and the Beatles to be sure, but less obvious influences also add to the band's musical amalgam.
"People are always going to draw comparisons," Nicholls said, "so I don't think they're either positive or negative. ... As cliché as this may sound, I don't feel like we're tied down to any particular style."
"Ride"'s follow-up single has yet to be chosen, but the decision is likely to be made after the Vines finish their North American tour with Jet in mid-April (see "Graffiti Gone Wild: Bathroom Babe Shimmies In Jet Video"). Nicholls said he hopes whichever track makes the cut will further the band's enigmatic perception.
"Hopefully we can get a single out which is more acoustic," he said. "I guess that's the risk, or the good thing, about how your band is perceived. Sometimes it works out great, and sometimes it works out not so great. But I definitely can't complain about anything."
Following a tour of Europe, Japan and their native Australia, the Vines will return Stateside to open for Incubus, beginning June 24 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.