Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop
The Vaselines broke up in 1989 just after the release of their only album, Dum Dum. The split was partly due to the members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee splitting as a couple, partly down to not seeing a place for themselves in the music industry. Despite a brief reunion shortly after their demise to play a couple shows in support of Nirvana (Kurt Cobain was rather famously a huge fan of the band), the split seemed very final.
With so much of today’s music echoing the past, it’s difficult to tell if The Vaselines are timeless or just outdated. Listening to Sex with an X is like entering a Technicolor time warp, and the Scottish pop outfit’s sophomore LP—20 years after the release of Dum-Dum—reminds us just how vintage the ’80s really are. Variety is not so much a priority for the band as is foot-tapping appeal: the hooks are catchy and the lines are even catchier, like the title track’s singable mantra, “It feels so good/It must be bad for me.” Yet as delectable as the melodies are, Sex with an X seems like it’s all been done before—and in fact, we know that it has.
The Vaselines have surprised us a few times in recent years. It was a bit unexpected when they reunited for Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary 2008. It was more unexpected still when they did a full tour in 2009. And while a few new songs sneaked their way into the setlist of said tour, it was still unexpected when a full length record was announced.
When the Vaselines reunited a couple of years ago, they didn't pretend they had much to add to what they'd accomplished in the late 1980s: two EPs and a brief album, all of them brisk, frothy, wittily stupid, magnificently hooky, and horny enough to shatter granite. But their reunion also seemed like a "fuck it, why not?" move. The Glasgow-based duo of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly were never exactly careerists-- it's not their problem that Nirvana covered three of their songs-- and their 2008-2009 tour seemed like a one-off frolic rather than any kind of commitment or cash-in.
Some of this century's most acclaimed fiction has dealt in what-if scenarios: Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America, say, or Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. One can be sure that if rock critics controlled the publishing industry, our nation's dying bookstores would be filled with overheated, adjectival answers to one of rock history's most interesting hypotheticals: What if Nirvana never exploded? Surely Buzz Ballads wouldn't exist; Kurt Cobain might still be alive; and The Vaselines probably wouldn't be following up their one and only LP, Dum-Dum, 20 years after the fact. (Or, at least, their follow-up wouldn't be coming out on a label as high-profile as Sub Pop.
In the ensuing years since their first last gasp, The Vaselines have come to encapsulate a particular genre in rock music that evokes a maverick spirit executed in a style and attitude that is delightfully amateur. This aesthetic can be charming as hell, but as proven by the tired crop of bands shuffling their feet in vain efforts to recreate the C86-and-beyond indie sounds of yesteryear, amateur is still amateur, and sooner or later you are going to want your pet band to grow up a bit and start acting like pros. The Vaselines have grown up, and after 20 years in the weeds, the duo of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee has reunited to release only its second album to date.
Returning with a new album after a two-decade hiatus, the Vaselines are really testing the statute of limitations on comebacks. That’s not to say that the time off hasn’t been productive for the Vaselines, since revisionist history has been kind to them: The duo of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee may only have released a couple of EPs and a single album together in the late 1980s, but the sparse back catalog hasn’t kept them from being lionized over the years, thanks in no small part to Kurt Cobain’s evocative performances of their best songs. However, it’s tough to figure out what to make of the Vaselines’ long-time-coming second album, Sex with an X, and whether to treat it as only a novelty by a nostalgia act or as a work that should be appreciated on its own terms.
Sorry, the page you are looking for could not be found. Please use the site search at the top right or click one of the sections below. Fearless and irreverent Toronto news, analysis and live content focused on City Hall, Queen’s Park, the TTC, the environment, activism and more. Toronto fashion and design trends, environment tips and product reviews from Ecoholic Adria Vasil, Freewill Astrology by Rob Brezsny and Dan Savage's sex column Savage Love.
A welcome return – let’s hope they stick around for a bit longer this time. Rob Webb 2010 It’s difficult to talk about Scottish fuzz-poppers The Vaselines without mentioning the ‘C’ word, so let’s get it out of the way. It’s certainly fair to say that they’re best known for Kurt Cobain’s patronage – Nirvana covered three of their songs (Son of a Gun, Molly’s Lips and Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam), and he even named his daughter Frances Bean after vocalist/guitarist Frances McKee – but that shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the rest of this intriguing story.