The Vaselines - V for Vaselines

by Jim Harris Rating:6.5 Release Date:2014-09-29

Unlike many Nirvana fans, I didn’t follow up and actually listen to The Vaselines much when Kurt Cobain and Nirvana recorded several of their songs. In a college town I existed in way back in the early 90s, they played an EP by The Vaselines and I remember not being all that impressed.

Speed ahead 20-plus years and how curious they have a new album out called V is for Vaseline. I like this album but not much. Deadpan vocals, driving guitars that follow some weird progression, like The Beach Boys meet The Misfits. Eugene Kelly has a sort of Lou Reed quality to his voice, while Frances McKee’s voice is surprisingly strong and hip, and shows some pretty good range at times. It all adds up to a fairly modern sounding surfer-punk band heading in the same musical direction of say, Dum Dum Girls, Le Sera, or any number of other rather low-key yet up-tempo bands.

But V is for Vaseline shows little of the slightly psych influences or funny sexual word-plays and references that filled up their 1989 LP, Dum Dum, and weaved in and out of their collected body of work, The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History. V is for Vaseline sounds pretty much like what Eugene Kelly, lead singer/guitarist says it was supposed to sound like: a collection of short Ramones-influenced punk rock songs.

While there are some guest luminaries from Belle & Sabastian and Teenage Fanclub, as well as other Glasgow-based indie rockers, V is for Vaseline just adds up to a short, sweet collection of lightweight surfer-punk tunes which don’t really etch any new markings in the alternative universe.  It’s a pleasant but uneventful album. 

It starts with the best song on the album, ‘High Tide Low Tide’, a nice enough beach-punk song. What follows is more or less of the same droning pop-punk on through to the last song ‘Last Half Hour’. Blink-blink. (Don’t all punk bands end their albums with some end of the show reference? Eugene must have asked Frances in a coffee shop in Glasgow…)

The Vaselines had their 15 minutes of fame when Kurt Cobain called them great songwriters and recorded a few of their songs and probably even immortalized one of their songs: ‘Jesus doesn’t want me for a Sunbeam’.  But the Vaselines today, regardless of how loud Dee Dee and Belle & Sabastian might proclaim their influence, don’t sound as good as Dee Dee or for that matter, as dry and overly cutesy as Belle & Sebastian. There just isn’t anything in V is for Vaseline that breaks any new ground, lyrically or musically.

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