Words by Russell Carstens

My relationship with The Vaselines began like that of many others—through good ol’ Nirvana. Cobain & Co. introduced me to the Scottish band with their covers on the Incesticide compilation and MTV Unplugged in New York. Fast forward about seven years into 2002, and I purchased the killer Sub Pop compilation, The Way of The Vaselines: A Complete History. From the brief but guttural guitar churnings that lead off “Son of a Gun”, I loved their charming funky-punk with naughty lyrics snuck in. “Slushy” is a two-minute mini epic about a brunette girl admired by Eugene Kelly, while “Rory Rides Me Raw” features mirrored acoustic guitars slightly out of time with each other in true punk rock fashion.

Anyway, it’s 2014 and the band is re-invigorated on V for Vaselines, which was directly inspired by the no-nonsense approach of The Ramones. “High Tide Low Tide” opens with sunshine pop chants, sounding as if The Beach Boys discovered distortion pedals. When Frances McKee joins Kelly on the chorus, their magic is back immediately. This instantly addictive opener sets the precedent for the rest of the album. The guitars are more ferocious and thick with distortion than on any of the band’s past work.

Sung from the perspective of a long-unused vinyl record, “The Lonely LP” features McKee pleading, “I just want to excite you/ It’s getting kind of lonely sitting here on the shelf/ Dust me down and spin me.” A hammering piano is quietly snuck into the mix of “Inky Lies”, which slows down a bit for a refreshing change with a joyful chorus supported by McKee’s simple harmonies.

The clean and quiet intro of “Single Spies” echos the same lost-love vulnerability and sadness of 1992’s “Hot Dog” by Kelly’s post-Vaselines band, Eugenius. It’s highlighted by a gently melodic solo, pleasantly lulling you to a serene place. Although it’s not easy to tell whether Kelly is angry or sad when he sings, “Stop denying it meant nothing/ You’re lying,” trying to figure out if and when The Vaselines are being serious is part of the fun. On “One Lost Year” Kelly boasts, “I don’t need to care about tomorrow,” and his delivery is the same as that of his youthful, carefree outlook from the band’s earliest releases.

The repeat-worthy “Number One Crush” is the album’s standout song, thanks to its classic Vaselines vocal melodies combined with their signature humor and quick wit in the chorus hook: “Being with you kills my IQ.” The twee-infused guitar solo is so sweetly melodic and beautiful that you don’t want it to stop. It’s efficient, without a wasted note, sneaking in and out before you know it. The mournful, fuzzy chords and enormous snare sound are the centerpieces of “Last Half Hour”, whose noise pop will make you sad that summer has recently ended.

The Vaselines do what they do as well as they ever have on V for Vaselines, and the shots of adrenaline and distortion have given their routine a welcome change of pace.

The Vaselines
‘V For Vaselines’
Rosary Music
© October 7th, 2014



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