Archive for Nirvana

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 12, 2014 by johnbuckley100

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.

“Achtung Baby” Twentieth Anniversary Addition: Even Better Than The Real Thing?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 9, 2011 by johnbuckley100

We kind of dreaded the idea that U2 was going to release a “deluxe edition” of Achtung Baby, pegged to the 20th anniversary of its release.  Divorced from the context in which the classic album was created — not just U2’s evolution from a band at the center of what mattered to its current (semi-functional) status as nostalgia act, but honestly, how many among its fans remember the glorious tension in the air after the Berlin Wall came down and the capital most fraught with history and ghosts became the locus for Eno and U2 to create a masterwork? — the prospect of the commercial packaging of Achtung Baby, with its coasters and branded rhinestone Bono-specks seemed worse than a joke, a symbol of a great band’s decline.  Remember too: twenty years ago this month, Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the charts, a moment that seemed as liberating as the Berlin Wall falling, but the question today of what that that release meant is as devoid of mystery as modern-day Berlin, the “sexy but poor” capital of the richest state in Europe.  Nevermind did not, alas, mean punk rock uber alles, though Achtung Baby certainly was the zenith of U2, both musically and as an authentic act.  Everything since, (some brilliant moments on Pop notwithstanding) from the phony dance rock of Zooropa to the pretty, pleasing anthem rock that followed, has been anticlimax.  So of course they package their greatest album with all sorts of bells and whistles, extracting one last pint of  lucre from this symbol of their past.

Except it’s great.  No, we don’t know about the box set and all that, but the extra songs available via the release on iTunes contain some gems.  Yes, we were able to get “Lady With The Spinning Head” and their cover of Creedence’s “Fortunate Son,” and I think that cover of “Paint It Black”  in earlier compilations.  But songs like “Blow Your House Down,” “Salome,” and even “Where Did It All Go Wrong?”, with it’s Gene Simmons barre chords are, well, at least as good as the real thing.  The big question with these repackages of classic albums that empty the cupboards is whether or not, had the newly released songs been included the first time around, they would have increased your sense then of the album’s greatness.  When the Stones re-released Exile On Main Street a couple of years back, the inclusion of new/old songs was delightful on any level, but I could understand why, with the exception of “Plundered My Soul,” those songs never made it out the first time.  (And of course “Plundered My Soul” was dropped because it too closely resembled “Tumbling Dice,” though in retrospect,  as much as this may qualify as apostasy, they may have chosen the wrong one to go out with in 1972.)  But then an album like Tell Tale Signs is released, containing not so much unreleased songs, but different versions of the songs Dylan and his producers chose for his albums from 1989 to 2006, and it was a bloody revelation: it actually made me remove Time Out Of Mind from my list of the greatest Dylan albums because I felt cheated: the songs not chosen were so much better than what he actually put out.

Several of the songs released with the “Deluxe Version” of  Achtung Baby would have made a great album even greater.  Yes, they border a little too closely on territory claimed by the songs that made it.  And it’s clear that they never got the full Eno treatment — they seem slightly less substantial than the original songs as they were dipped in the little genius’s sonic frying pan.  But they are well worth a listen, and it is well worth remembering just how great Achtung Baby was when it came out, and Europe was being remade, even as Nirvana was about to eclipse U2 as the band that truly mattered.  And it’s too bad things didn’t turn out all that well, for everyone other than Dave Grohl and U2’s bankers, none of whom we hope are German.

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