The Vaselines: Enter the Vaselines (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

 |   |  2 min read

The Vaselines: Slushy
The Vaselines: Enter the Vaselines (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

You'd have thought that by the Vaselines having Kurt Cobain as an uber-fan (Nirvana covered three Vaselines songs including Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam aka Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam) that this duo from Glasgow would have become huge.

But rock doesn't work that way: Cobain was also a big fan of Daniel Johnston but as a major label found out after it signed him, that didn't necessarily translate into massive sales.

Perhaps this reissue of a bunch of early lo-fi releases by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee (after whom Cobain named his daughter) will do the trick, although as with Johnston there's a turn-off factor if you like your rock music polished smooth for general consumption. But, as with Johnston, the Vaselines had the tunes and the wit -- if a greater number of songs about sex.

This double disc -- and expanded reissue of SubPop's The Way of the Vaselines compilation of '92 -- comes with a booklet of interviews, period art and photos, and picks up the Vaselines story at the start when, in '87-'88, they released two EP: Son of a Gun and Dying For It.

Right from the beginning they were courageously different: they covered Divine's salacious So You Think You're A Man on Son of a Gun (alongside their own Rory Rides Me Raw, which sort of tells you where they were coming from).

These are untutored and almost amateurish, but they have an undeniable kitschy charm: Rory is delivered over simple chiming guitar chords and So You Think mimics electro-pop with the most simple of keyboard lines borrowed from Kraftwerk.

By Dying For It a year later they were almost sounding seriously rockist (although it was still cheaply recorded) and the post-punk energy was racked up for the title track and Teenage Superstars. And although McKee's girlish vocals were no stronger or confident on Molly's Lips -- aficionados of early Flying Nun will find much to enjoy -- there is something particularly delightful about this EP which also included Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam.

As much as sex saturates many of their songs, so does a strange take on religion -- other songs include Rosary Job -- and their sole album Dum Dum of 1990 kicks off with Sex Sux (Amen) which opens with "I was born in original sin". By this time they'd added bass and drums to the line-up and Dum Dum enjoys some real firepower in the manner of a bargain basement Jesus and Mary Chain.

They also include a nice stab at power-pop after their own fashion (Slushy, Monsterpussy), a twist on the Velvet Underground's minimalism (the alt.folk Bitch), and a Nancy'n'Lee monochrome drone on No Hope.

Barely had Dum Dum been released than they split -- which doubtless has you wondering how SubPop could get two discs out of their catalogue of fewer than 20 short songs.

The second disc kicks in with three demos (Son of a Gun, Rosary Job and Red Poppy) which aren't bad at all -- and actually not as lower-fi than the lo-fi released versions -- and then two live sets from '88 (Glasgow and London) in which of course they necessarily cover the same territory. You can hear people speaking in the audience in Glasgow, which makes you think it was recorded by someone holding a mike above the head of the guy on the sound desk. Very funny.

At the London gig they sound like the Modern Lovers pumped up a bit. It sounds like there are seven people in the audience, and McKee is a very funny, very dry frontman between songs.

The Vaselines didn't last long, probably didn't influence too many people but were admired by the right ones: Cobain, Mudhoney and by extension SubPop.

Given the brevity of their career this handsomely presented double set is the be-all and end-all of the wonky, slightly wonderful and highly amusing Vaselines. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

The Veils: Trouble of the Brain EP (Pitch Beast/Native Tongue)

The Veils: Trouble of the Brain EP (Pitch Beast/Native Tongue)

Produced in large part by Bernard Butler (Suede etc), this sharp, fat-free six-song EP finds Finn Andrews and band delivering a smart line in slightly dark pop, but in a few places it is pop... > Read more

Various: Alice Russell; The Pot of Gold Remixes (Little Poppet)

Various: Alice Russell; The Pot of Gold Remixes (Little Poppet)

This may well be for a minority audience for a few reasons: not as many people liked UK soul singer Alice Russell's late 2008 album Pot of Gold quite as much as I did (but seemed to like her... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Fatboy Slim: You've Come a Long Way Baby

Fatboy Slim: You've Come a Long Way Baby

Slightly funny and true story: Back in the distant past Fatboy Slim -- aka famous DJ Norman Cook -- was coming to New Zealand and at the Herald we arranged for one our feature writers -- who'd... > Read more

Elvis Costello and the Imposters; Civic, Auckland. April 27, 2014

Elvis Costello and the Imposters; Civic, Auckland. April 27, 2014

Most artists understand their audience's requirement and expectation so include at least a smattering of their most famous or best loved songs. And so it was that Elvis Costello and his gifted... > Read more