When Sydney-siders the Vines’ debut album, ‘Highly Evolved’, was released in 2002, it shot to #3 On the UK charts and #11 On the US charts. Was this considered a notable achievement for Australian music? Some thought so, but others argued that it wasn’t really an Australian album as the band weren’t really based in Australia anymore, and the album was recorded in Los Angeles. At the Australian Recording Industry Awards for that year, the Vines picked up only one gong, losing out to George (ugh!) for best breakthrough talent, Kylie Minogue (urk!) for single of the year, and Silverchair (gag!) for best group and best rock album.
What a load of garbage! Nowadays, nothing is more Australian than getting the hell out of Australia. For any Australian under the age of 30, chances are that half the people he or she knew five years ago are on the other side of the world right now. Far from being an example of three young men turning their back on this country, ‘Highly Evolved’ is the quintessential Australian album of the new century for the very reason that it captures this tendency to pack up and ship off so brilliantly.
Not convinced? Allow me to demonstrate what I mean using a selection of lyrics from the album. Below each tidbit of Vines-speak I’ve added a translation of what Vines’ songwriter and frontman Craig Nicholls really means. Whether you’re the person who has left these shores or been left behind, you’ll recognize in Mr Nicholls’ words our national belief that the grass is always greener in the other hemisphere.
Vines-speak: Heads are down/ And all the people frown/ In the fac-to-reee (in the fac-to-ree)/ I’m so down I put my head around/ Every noose I see (Factory)
Translation: As every Vines fan knows, Craig dropped out of school in tenth grade and ended up working in McDonalds. (Of course, he then sold bundles of records, so I suppose he had the last laugh.) Anyway, bringing home that lousy Australian currency was apparently a bit dispiriting for our budding songwriter. Which leads to this conclusion…
Vines-speak: I’m gonna get freeeeeee/ I’m gonna get freeeeee/ I’m gonna get freeeeee/ Riiiide into the sun (Get Free)
Translation: Craig is outtahere! He takes along Patrick from McDonalds and some drummer and they head off overseas to make a name for themselves. It’s somewhere other than here so it must be better, right? So pick up your guitars, boys, and hit the friendly skies. Those losers back in the suburbs can eat your dust.
Vines-speak: I feel so happy/ So high-ly e-volllved … Dream-ing for something, reac-hing for somethiii-eeeeeng (Highly Evolved)
Translation: Ah yes, they can picture it now. There’s something… and, uh, well, there’s something else… and yeah, something else good… just wait until they touch down, you’ll see…
Vines-speak: I left my hooooommmmee, I left my hoooo-oooooommmmee, yeah yeah… Without my phooooonnnnee, without my phoooo-oooooonnnnee, yeah yeah (Homesick)
Translation: Proof that Craig Nicholls is different to the rest of the human race. Nobody does this.
Vines-speak: It’s 1969 in my heeeeeaaaad!/ I just wanna haaaave no plaaaace to go/ I’m living thru the sound of the deeeeeaaaaad! (1969)
Translation: Craig flew into London and the Beatles weren’t there. And it’s bloody freezing!
Vines-speak: Nothing’s gonna save you (nothing’s gonna save you)/ Nothing’s gonna save you (nothing’s gonna) out theeeerrrrrr-eeeerrrre (Homesick)
Translation: Another reference to the crappy weather in the northern hemisphere. Also Craig has realized that, due to the large amount of Aussie ex-pats in London, all the morons who beat him up at school are here as well.
Vines-speak: I have been crying in my sleep/ Cause I don’t know where I’ve been/ I just want to live to see another day/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey/ Hey Hey Hey Hey (1969)
Translation: London sucks just as much as Sydney did, so Craig and company have to chant themselves to sleep. They’re coming to the realization that they chose the wrong country. So it’s time to visit that other big brother of a nation across the Atlantic. Let’s see how that works out.
Vines-speak: You know you really oughta/ Move out-ta Californyerrr (Get Free)
Translation: Not so well then. Craig’s miserable at home and he’s miserable abroad, and since time travel is an impossibility he’s going to have to find some place in this world to be. Which leads to this conclusion…
Vines-speak: I really don’t need a chaaaaaa-nge/ I really don’t need what’s miiiiiii-ne/ Out in a country yaaaa-rrrrd/ It-’ll be just fine (Country Yard)
Translation: Of course, when life in the city gets too much, you can always take a sea change into the Aussie country. Craig dreams of going the time-honoured ‘tortured genius’ route and becoming a virtual recluse. But won’t that tie him down? How can he fulfil his yearning to escape? We all know the answer…
Vines-speak: Why should I lose/ When I-‘ve got to goooo/ Maaar-y Jaaaaane/ Maaar-y Jaaaaane (Mary Jane)
Translation: In the end, there are always the drugs.