“V For Vaselines” Is All We Really Want To Listen To

There’s a delightful perversity to the story of The Vaselines.  The Glaswegian band released their first album, Dum Dum, in 1989 — and promptly broke up.  They got one of those career boosts a band can only dream of: Kurt Cobain listed Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee as his favorite songwriters, and proved it on MTV Unplugged in New York, when Nirvana covered “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” not to mention a killer version of “Molly’s Lips” on Incesticide.  And yet by that time, there was no band to cash in on the plug.  The story seemingly ended with one album, two singles, and a famous missed chance.

Not for another 21 years did The Vaselines put out Sex With An X, the follow-up to the lauded Dum Dum, and what a follow-up it was.  We were, alas, a little slow on the pick-up and had to list in 2011 as one of our previous-year’s regrets the fact that it hadn’t made the Tulip Frenzy 2010 Top Ten List (c).  Since then, Sex With An X has been a regular presence in our earbuds, and we play it anytime we want to have our mood improved by gorgeously melodic and often howlingly funny songs.  To say that The Vaselines only delivered on their promise after a generation’s absence just ads to the perversity of their story.

And now comes V For Vaselines, the tightest, likely the most tuneful album of punk rock since Rocket To Russia, an album that if listened to on the Delta Shuttle (true story) provokes such aisle seat joy that cross aisle neighbors stare before you realize you are snapping your fingers and possibly singing along. Eugene and Frances have never sung better, the propulsive drumming is more infectious than Ebola, and the whole album swings.  We wake in the middle of the night with “Crazy Lady” being powered through the Marshall amps inside our mind, and when we say that this song — actually, the whole album — reminds us of I (Heart) The Mekons, we of course are offering the highest praise. “Earth Is Speeding” is a reminder of what could have happened if Roxy Music, in 1977, had hopped on the punk rock bandwagon.  Lovers once upon a time, adult collaborators these days, Kelly and McKee have literally never sounded better than they do on “Number One Crush,” with its great lyrical premise of tongue-tied love (“Being with you/Kills my IQ).

The mythos of rock’n’roll is that a band puts everything into its first record, and either grows or dies from there.  There is no precedent for a one-album wonder coming back from obscurity 21 years after the first record, and then four years later puts out a masterpiece.  But that’s what The Vaselines have done, and its not too late for you to come along on a greasy, glorious ride.

One Response to ““V For Vaselines” Is All We Really Want To Listen To”

  1. Great album! Thanks, John.

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