You wouldn't guess from listening to Vision Valley that the Vines have been suffering through turbulent times since their 2004 flop, Winning Days. Despite bassist Patrick Matthews's departure, and frontman Craig Nicholls's diagnosis with Asperger's syndrome (which ranks with Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's disease as one of the Non-Shocking Announcements of All Time), the new album actually evolves the band's sound in ways both inspired and pragmatic while maintaining the group's unique identity as a hippie-grunge bubblegum merchant.
The ballads, which are beautiful enough for Big Star, finally have some of the focus and energy the bandmates put in their rockier numbers (of which there are more than usual). Dreamy longings like "Take Me Back" and "Going Gone" not only hold up to the aggressive "Fuk Yeh " and "Gross Out" but also outshine them. Aside from the six-minute closer, "Spaceship," the average song length is about two minutes, the band dropping some addictive if inane verse-chorus-verse before scooting on to the next hook. The 30 minutes of Vision Valley isn't a particularly nutritious meal Nicholls has nothing more profound to say than "Don't listen to the radio" but it'll be a guilty pleasure for folks who actually care what the next Oasis single will sound like.
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