The Vaselines, Enter the Vaselines

The Vaselines, Enter the Vaselines

There are only a handful of bands (if that) that have more deluxe, post-career reissue albums than they do actual LPs — and the Vaselines are one of them. The fact acts, if nothing else, as a testament to the true awesomeness and brevity of this kinky Scottish duo.

Perhaps all of this is due to heavy endorsement by Cobain, who often touted the Vaselines as his “favorite band,” but to give all of the credit to him would surely sell short the delightfully simple genius of this band. They still had to make the records, didn’t they?

Enter the Vaselines is the latest installment canonizing the Vaselines’ minimal repertoire in all of the different types of releases you can make. There are demos, EPs, LPs, and live recordings. Some of you may (like me) have found your love for the Vaselines through The Way of the Vaselines, released in ’92; some of you may have never heard of them before. Either way, Enter the Vaselines gives a radiant glance at one of the most unknown and cultish ’80s punk-pop acts at all angles and gives plenty of reason for Cobain’s fascination.

With (now) classics such as “Jesus Don’t Want me for a Sunbeam” and “Son of a Gun,” the Vaselines’ amateur and greasy demo version of three songs — “Son of a Gun,” “Rosary Job,” and “Red Poppy” — give great insight into the roots of the band. Obviously understaffed as a boy/girl duo, the Vaselines produced a hollow, drum-machined version of their latent hit. The other two songs, “Rosary Job” and “Red Poppy,” which only materialize on the demo and live versions, are jangly, sing-a-long-y, bits of euphoria, and surprisingly sober for that.

The two live concerts offered show what the Vaselines sounded like in the ’80s, which is exactly what you’d think: gritty, unwittingly sloppy, and fresh. Though I should note that it seems they had time to mature, as the second live offering (“Live in London”) has a greater catalogue and is much more listenable.

Of course, these three installments offer a more behind-the-scenes look and have the subliminal appeal akin to looking at someone’s adorable baby photos when they’re lying naked on the rug. The real meat of this deluxe edition comes in the form of the Vaselines’ two EPs (Son of a Gun and Dying for It) and their single full-length release DUM DUM.

DUM DUM offers an intricate depth and high production quality of an honest LP — much different from the sound of The Way of the Vaselines. The songs are meaty and excited. Kelly’s adolescent snarl comes off clean and crisp, while McKee’s vocal are unabashed and unaffected. Songs like “Oliver Twisted” and “Slushy” are almost too colorful for the Vaselines’ notoriously Scottish drab.

The two EPs compile what were the cuts from The Way of the Vaselines, with better production quality at the hands of Sub Pop re-mastering. Both, however include the recorded versions of “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” “Molly’s Lips,” “Son of a Gun,” and an electro-rock version of Divine’s “You Think You’re a Man,” which are all infamous and important tracks charting the rise of the Vaselines into the cult rock spotlight. Hence, they’re both redundant and necessary in the catalogue at the same time.

An homage like this to the Vaselines was not only needed to give this band their proper spot in rock’s tapestry, but also to further the notion that the mainstream (even in the MTV generation) has often overlooked crucial and worthy bands. Songs like “Sunbeam” and “Molly’s Lips,” as innocent and unwitting as they are, were in jeopardy of being unheard. Thankfully, though, no more.

(Sub Pop Records -- 2013 4th Ave. 3rd Floor, Seattle, WA. 98121; http://www.subpop.com/; The Vaselines -- http://www.myspace.com/thevaselinesband)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, June 12th, 2009. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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