The Vaselines explore new sound
This is the music that makes being a music fan worth it. This is the music that I love.
The Vaselines are Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. They recorded about an album and a half worth of material in 1987 to 1989, and broke up in 1989 shortly after the release of their first full-length record “Dum Dum.” The Vaselines play a mix of stripped down rock and roll, and their version of bubbly pop.
Since their original breakup their music has found a small following among certain music fans and musicians with whom their music strongly resonates. The most famous of these being Kurt Cobain, whose band Nirvana covered their music three times.
As one of these fans, I find a sublime joy in their music that I do not find on any other band. No other makes me want to sing along more, and when I listen to their music I can escape from my troubles and everything in the world feels OK.
This power their music has comes from the pure way that both Kelly and McKee approach and express their music. Kelly’s low baritone intertwines with McKee high soprano in a unique way that gives the songs a vibrant pulse. It’s this interplay of vocals that gives their songs their sing-along quality.
Both play the guitar with an airy ease that lets their melodies glide in a nice, flowing way. Their original technique as musicians is brought to the forefront by the direct composition and lyrics of their songs.
Whether the song is a fast rock song or a pop ditty, this music comes at you in a pure way because of the simplicity of the songs and the personality of the playing.
The songs lyrics have a simple, almost innocent feeling that is a great counterpoint to the more adult theme of sex that has always been present in their music.
After playing a smattering of reunion shows throughout the last decade, the Vaselines have released their second album “Sex with an X,” their first in 20 years.
There could be a worry that, after 20 years, the magic of their sound could be lost.
This has not happened. Many times on the album I feel the same feeling of joy and escapism that I had felt from their earlier material. All the things that made them great in the late 80s are still there.
Yet the songs on this new record show a craft and depth that is not on their earlier records. The Vaselines really took the time to make every song perfect.
The harmonies are tight. In their time away from the studio, the Vaselines have become better singers and songwriters. Each song is composed to have the best impact. Compared to their earlier material, the album is produced in a much clearer and more listenable fashion.
This more professional approach may not sound attractive to the fans of the low fidelity nature of their earlier work. Yet it gives the music a punch that they have not had before.
On songs, such as the title track and “Mouth to Mouth,” the songs have the same joyful bounce that is their signature. Yet these new songs have a potency that is not on their earlier material.
The entire album has this. These songs here are better and more complete.
They explore musical ideas they have not yet explored. On “The Devil Inside Me” they explore the darker side of human attraction.
Their usually bubbly and high-energy sound turns into a creepy, strange sound. On “White Chapel,” “Exit the Vaselines,” and “Such a Fool,” they explore what they can express when they slow down their sound while keeping what makes them great. These songs work, and it’s great to see them explore something not on their previous records.
The Vaselines’ “Sex with an X” contains music that makes me glad that I am a music fan. Many times listening to the record, I felt a great feeling
I know I would not have without music. In the end this is the power of music.