Scotland - Full Moon 155 - 05/09/09
Enter The Vaselines
Sub Pop / Tuba!
Veteran Scotsman/woman steered group The Vaselines are living legends. Much thanks to a dead legend, Kurt Cobain. With only a brief career span (1986-90), with jangly, old-school, anorak/C-86 indie-rock, they've most definitely deserved their little corner in the history of rock. Enter The Vaselines is a 36-song deluxe double disc (triple vinyl!) collection collecting their entire recordings: 2 EPs, Son of a Gun and Dying for It, and their sole album, Dum Dum. Well, in fact this is a reissue of the 1992 Sub Pop release The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History with a new title, and an additional 17 songs (demos and live tracks, from Bristol, 1986, and London, 1988) thrown in.
The Vaselines were formed in Glasgow by singers/guitarists/songwriters Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, and followed the tracks of Glaswegians Stephen McRobbie/Pastel and his Pastels. The Vaselines made simple, catchy pop songs, sometimes quiet and calm, often quicker and noisier. Always with an intense drive and a gutsy nerve. Kelly and McKee took turns being the lead singers, or they shared the mic equally. The Pastels are mentioned as brothers in arms, so to speak. Other contemporary bands were Edinburgh's The Shop Assistants, Americans Beat Happening, or even Australians The Cannanes.
Nirvana covered "Molly's Lips" and "Son Of A Gun" (released on Incesticide). They also did the very fine "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" at their MTV Unplugged session, and Cobain often hailed Kelly/McKee to be his fave songwriters. They were good. Maybe not genius, but very good. "Molly's Lips" with McKee's light voice, and the bike beep-horn. Charming. "Dying For It" is very cool. Its B-side, a cover of Divine's "You Think You're a Man" is even better. It's a really smart, even though it's got a drum-machine beat. Both "Teenage Superstar", "Sex Sux" and "Dum Dum" brings The Stooges (or Iggy) to mind as a reference. Stooges as pop, with heavily fuzzed guitars and bass, that is. I guess Kurt Cobain loved their guitar sound as much as the their poppy attitude. "Bitch" is a psychedelic piece, while "Oliver Twisted", their second Divine cover, is among their catchier. "Son Of a Gun" still is the stand out track from their songbook, with its staccato drum-beat, the simple, few-toned over-drive guitar riff, and the twin vocals. Bull's eye indie-pop style.
The quick-beat, galloping drive of "The Day I Was a Horse" is another high-light. "Hairy" could've been a Sonic Youth song, and the same goes (almost) for "Lovecraft". Many of the 19 tracks on disc 1 (the 'regular' songs: the EPs and the album) shows what a potent band the Vaselines were, within the DIY, less-is-more
school of rock. The bonus part of the record, the demos and live recordings I find more curious, even though "Rosary Job" is a pearl just waiting for a little polishing. And the deadpan, humorous introduction of "Son Of a Gun" as "Up Your Arse", live in Bristol.
I believe that was their attitude, not being too serious about everything. Enter the world of The Vaselines.
Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen