Much can happen in 20 years. For example, the number one song 20 years ago, nearly to this day, was “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. Now, ol’ Rob Van Winkle is running in the pseudo-celebrity has-been circuit with another reality show about do-it-yourself house repair. Big name rock stars of 20 years ago have fallen from grace. All this points to one very impressive point; just the fact that The Vaselines released a new album after a 20-year gap is an accomplishment. Add the fact it’s only their second album and top with the fact that it’s actually good, and I wanna shake their hand.
Yet, being a music geek, there is another reason I want to plant palms with this duo. The two were covered by a little band called Nirvana and Cobain was such a fan that he named his daughter after the lady half, Frances McKee. In the late 80s, The Vaselines were a lo-fi, fuzzy with teeth, witty little band. And with “Sex with an X” not much has changed.
Sure, they’ve gained some experience with age, and some bitterness, but the bones of the band remain the same. Hooky, catchy, humorous ditties that have a good balance between McKee’s sugary vocals and Eugene Kelly’s straight ahead style. Opening track, “Ruined” has a more concentrated punky pace than many of its followers, yet is easy and energetic at the same time.
It’s followed by the kinky title track that obviously plays off the double entendre. You can’t help, but smile a little and sway to the sing-along chorus of “It’s feels so good, it must be bad for me, let’s do it, let’s do it again.” While playing off the title, they are also playing off their re-connected collaboration. Another track that will turn the corners of your mouth is “I Hate the 80s.” Mocking all things iconic of the generation such as MTV, Duran Duran, and the Rubik cube with a simple lyric of dubbing the decade “shit.”
The highlight comes at the end of the album. “Exit The Vaselines” is a wistful, gorgeous song with lovely vocals and hushed echoes of “bye, bye, bye.” It’s a sweet and sad sendoff serenade.
While, it’s very much likable, there are issues too. There is a lack of storytelling and consistency. In the track listing, you can kinda sense the somewhat lackadaisical, “eh, whatever” attitude of the band. Not to say they don’t care, but it’s been 20 years, and something tells me they aren’t exactly counting on this album breaking records. However, for all that it lacks, it makes up for in pure charm. I guess they don’t make em like they used to.
Don’t miss The Vaselines on Tuesday, October 19th at The Music Box w/ Telekinesis & Superchunk (all ages)! Buy your tickets here.
Words: Lori Bartlett