The Vaselines - Sex with an X

by Katy Ledger Rating:9 Release Date:2010-09-13

When The Vaselines split on the day they released their debut album in 1989 because they got bored of playing at crap venues for no money and "weren't having fun anymore", it would have been easy to underestimate the legacy they would leave in their wake.

I don't think it's possible to write about The Vaselines without mentioning Kurt Cobain, so I shall get it out of the way. Cobain once described Kelly and McKee as "His favourite songwriters in the whole world" and Nirvana went on to cover three Vaselines songs, cementing them forever in rock history. The Vaselines small back catalogue is still inspiring people today; bands like The Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and The Moldy Peaches owe a massive debt to The Vaselines.

Now, Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, joined by Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea of Belle & Sebastian and Michael McGaughrin of The 1990s, are finally bringing us the follow up to Dum Dum, 21 years after it first debuted, and are showing those bands appropriating their sound exactly how it's done.

The album was produced by Julie McLaron, who also produced their debut. The production is a little more glossy than Dum Dum, given that they actually had money to spend on recording it this time. Even so, the album was recorded, as the band put it,"the old fashioned way": 12 songs in 13 days, with the same bare-bones production style that gives The Vaselines their timeless quality.

Sex with an X has no sense of being the difficult second album of a band with such a legendary status, in fact it carries on exactly where Dum Dum left off, as a brilliantly lo-fi brand of scuzzy pop with wry and quirky lyrics all sung in sweet boy/girl harmonies.

Anyone worried about whether The Vaselines have still got the ability to write songs for a young audience needn't; the songs are so rife with sexual tension and lustful lyrics they sound more like the work of a sexually depraved teenager than the work of two people in their mid 40s. 'Mouth to Mouth' literally demands some action with lyrics like, "Kiss me/ I'm in season" and "Touch me with some feeling/ please lead me astray". 'Sex with an X' and 'Turning It On' also build up the sexual tension on this album, which is to be expected considering Kelly and McKee used to be a couple and adds another element to the call and response vocals that the pair do so well.

However, this time around The Vaselines aren't all sex and sweet duets. Sex with an X provides us with another side to the band that wasn't apparent on Dum Dum. 'The Devils Inside Me' is a dark and disturbing tale of domestic violence told by Kelly with ghostly backing vocals from McKee and 'Whitechapel', as suggested in the title, appears to be a conversation between Jack the Ripper and one of his victims. Maybe more than 20 years in the music industry can darken the spirit a little?

'I Hate the 80s' is a very welcome antidote to the tiresome 80s revival that currently fills the charts and a blatant finger up to those still pedalling the synth pop of that era; "What do you know/you weren't there/ it wasn't all Duran Duran Duran Duran/ you want the truth, well this is it/ I hate the 80s because the 80s were shit". It also boasts a killer guitar solo, bags of melody and is a lesson to all those trying to create catchy garage pop. This is how you do it.

There's nothing complicated about The Vaselines; a lo-fi pop sensibility, loads of melody and brilliant song writing. And that's all you need to secure your position as a legendary band… and having a music legend as your biggest fan can help too.

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