The Vickers – Fine For Now
aaamusic | On 10, Jul 2011
Oh dear, it is indeed summer: we’re being inundated with rather twee upbeat pop rock albums ready for balmy evenings with friends and lovers and socially-acceptable levels of alcohol. The Vickers’ ‘Fine For Now’ is a fine specimen of this migrant summer species: an inoffensive beast wearing the feathers of both The Beatles and Arctic Monkeys, with the subtle punch of neither.
Opener ‘They Need To Dance’ is a catchy number, yes. Eminently danceable guitar hopskip and a happily trundling treacley drumkit positively jangle summer with “cheeky” vocals that drawl all those good-times vibes over the track. But I can’t help but feel heavily cynical: there’s a slight lack of excitement here. Even the kooky instrumental can’t quite lift it, especially with the trite chorus. The warm bassline of ‘You Think I’m Playing’ is offset nicely by indeed playful guitar jangles and heavy chorus pedal melodies to achieve a fairground tone, but there’s something a little formulaic here, and the lyricism feels like it’s been done before, even if the haziness of the track has some appeal. ‘Chem Dream’ echoes that fuzzed-out heart, and a bittersweet melancholy that counters the sweet songwriting, but for all its shoegazing nectar taste, the indie-pop dance tones fall flat at the lack of passion, and this feels like if Ash came off a factory production line.
The dubiously titled ‘Baby G’ does kick it up a notch, injecting a bit of energy in a faster tempo and a vocal approach that sounds like the singer has actually woken up, and the shimmering guitar sparks nicely alongside a tumbling, sprinting percussion, and a rather catchy little honey-dripping chorus, and ‘David Blame’ pulls a similar trick with a blissful-toned bite, in a wonderfully upbeat track possessing a rare incidence of acidic lyrical wit. The easygoing melancholy of ‘Wait Me Out’, despite a stilted feel, does hold some appeal – the twang of the vocals matches the twang of the guitar, and the swaying slowness is pulled off well, although we could do without the rock-out this time: The Vickers can hold their own on pop-rock dancers and slow songs, but are just too limp to try any punk stuff, which is a shame given the track’s rather lovely first half.
Despite a rather tasty and tight instrumental arrangement, ‘It’s All Really Mad’ is let down by a smooth and underdone attitude: the helter-skelter guitar/bass hook interplay and stop/start chord drops and handclap/cymbal shimmer should all lead to a standout track, but its drawling aloofness fails to impress, and ultimately detracts. Similarly, the pseudo-psychedelia Beatles/Oasis style on ‘A Big Decision’ has potential, but is let down by not being fully exploited: The Vickers start on the pedals and the unusual sounds/rhythmic playfulness, but they never pursue it, falling into generic pop choruses instead.
The bassy, synthy clumsiness of ‘William’ feels slightly like a different band: the treble-drenched guitar is too aggressive and piercing, and the vocals almost sneer, further forward in the mix than normal, and if it weren’t for the rather overfamiliar melodies, there’s a good sense of life here that The Vickers could with do more of, as the solo brings the subtlest dash of Jesus & Mary Chain to the band’s habitual blandness.
Although the semi-acoustic fingerpicking of ‘A Game For To Play’ fails to inspire, closer ‘Time Out’ does have a degree of snappy charm, evoking garage rock in the farfista organ wails and skewed attitude-driven chorus, and the band are undeniably tight and together, although it’s still not really as exciting as it should be.
‘Fine For Now’ is an intensely frustrating record: it could and indeed should appeal, it has well-written hooks and an earnest heart and mind. Unfortunately, it also has a too-cool-for-its-own-good laconic attitude that just saps it of passion. Summertime rock: if you want it done smarter, there’s Mando Diao; if you want it better, Ash still hold the crown.
Author: Katie H-Halinski