Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Vaselines - Sex With An X (Sub Pop Records)

Scottish indie popsters The Vaselines have finally released Sex With An X, a long awaited album of new material since their debut back in 1989, Dum-Dum.

Now, having only been born in 1984 I think it’s fair to say I became a fan of The Vaselines on the back of their popularity with Kurt Cobain, who once stated McKee and Kelly were up there amongst his “most favourite songwriters in the whole world”. Now if that’s not good press, what is? It was Nirvana’s 1992 release Incesticide that included covers of “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” and the MTV Nirvana Unplugged album’s cover of “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” that cemented Cobain’s faith in their musicianship and thus promoted them way beyond their time together as a band.

Ok, so, as stated on the new album, “What do you know?/ You weren’t there/ You want the truth?/Well this is it/ I hate the eighties/ The eighties were shit”. Fair enough then, you’ve got me there. Let’s have a look at 2010 and see if things are any better….

There is still some bite left in The Vaselines which is a relief. One would imagine after a hiatus of over a decade that a certain edge might be lost when reincarnating what turned out to be a surprise cult band of the late eighties. Sex With An X opens with a strange lo-fi recording of what sounds like a toy or haunting nursery rhyme before bursting into “Ruined” which encompasses enough energy and lo-fi mess to ascertain this record won’t be a letdown. We don’t want anything too polished, you hear?

The album goes on to the self titled “Sex With An X”, which is an ode to doing the bad thing with someone you probably shouldn’t. It’s good to see the writing style hasn’t changed too much over the years. One of my favourite things about The Vaselines is the thinly veiled sleaze within double entendres (particularly Dum-Dum’s “Rory Ride Me Raw”), deceivingly tinged with pop brilliance, combined with McKee’s sweet voice… at times they remind me of a Scottish Afghan Whigs, only poppier and without the self loathing.

Humour is rife throughout the album with songs like “Overweight But Over You” and “I Hate the ‘80s”. There are slightly more serious endeavours in the form of “The Devil’s Inside Me” and “Whitechapel” which break up the otherwise consistent jovial themes of unwise decisions, heartbreak and generally not giving too much of a shit.

The new album is noticeably less lo-fi than it’s predecessor in term’s of it’s production. McKee and Kelly’s vocals have matured over the years and the newer songs may not be as instantly memorable as some of their gem’s from the eighties, however as McKee said in the middle of their set at the recent ATP Bowlie 2 Festival … “If you like our new songs, buy our new record.. if you don’t, stick it up your arse.” Indeed, The Vaselines have spoken.

Words: Neil Phillips

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