||Sex with an X
||10 September 2010
PIASThe Vaselines. A band whose name I, like many others, first heard through the lips of Kurt Cobain performing on MTV's Unplugged series. That came moments before he launched into a version of their song 'Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam', but Nirvana, and Kurt in particular, had long been fans of the Scottish indie duo. Covers of 'Molly’s Lips' and 'Son of a Gun' appeared on Nirvana’s Incesticide record following the crater that previous album Nevermind had blown into the musical landscape of the 1990s.
The songs of Glasgow’s Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee (after which Frances-Bean Cobain was named) were concise poplike folk songs with more than an air of catchiness to them. However most songs came pre-packaged with some glaring defect that added to their cult value, whilst also meaning they would never trouble the charts in the way that Cobain later learned to do.
The Vaselines gift to counter-culture indie-folk, prior to this year, was the 1989 release Dum-Dum. There were earlier EP’s and later compilations but effectively Dum-Dum was the summation of their work. Yet only two decades later...
...The Vaselines bring you their follow-up album Sex with an X. Just like that!
What possessed the duo to finally make another original recording, at a time when “grunge” is as obscure as it is ever likely to be, forcing most people to react to its pronunciation like they’ve revisited a bad seafood experience, is beyond me. But I tell you what, I’m glad they did.
Gone are the grating harmonies that often stifled as much as they enhanced, as are the jangling guitars with no definitive purpose. The Vaselines 2.0 are a much sleeker animal. Their songs inherent, shall I say, cuteness (?) remains throughout, while the harmonies are, mercifully, tight and bring a lovely dimension to the melodies.
The wry humour of the writing partnership shines throughout. Mockery of the aging process is a common theme, put played for laughs somewhere between Jarvis Cocker and Stephen Malkmus. One of the most openly cuffing remarks appears on first single and standout track 'I Hate the '80s'.
"What do you know? You weren’t there. It wasn’t all Duran Duran. You want the truth? Well this is it. I hate the '80s 'cause the '80s were shit."
Brilliantly succinct, delightfully funny and very catchy. What more could you wish for?
Other songs such as 'Overweight But Over You' and the title track 'Sex with an X' repeat the dose, providing bursts of pop melodies in a three minute vessel, reminiscent of early Lemonheads. (Evan Dando is also rumoured to be a fan of the band.)
There are also other hues to this brightly packaged album. Most notably on the haunting chorus of 'Whitechapel' and the sombre and melodious closer of 'Exit The Vaselines'. Here they show their breadth of ability as the album’s potency is increased rather than being thinned by the slower pace.
To conclude; although their lyrics might suggest that twenty years has left them battling the bulge somewhat, The Vaselines have managed to trim the fat from where it counts. The music. Make no mistake, The Vaselines are (finally) back!
- D. Egan