Under Review: The Vaselines – Sex With An X

Better late than never, I suppose.  Coming 20 years after the release of their first and only full-length, Sex With An X is the ridiculously long-awaited second album from The Vaselines.  What makes this return different from the one that Devo made from an absence of similar length is that The Vaselines’ legacy has lasted longer than the time they were actually together.  The core duo of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee are joined by Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson and Bobby Kildea, further exhibiting the group’s immeasurable influence on today’s biggest indie pop acts.  Of course, Kurt Cobain was a noted fan in his day, but I’m not sure how much Kurt would dig the cleaner sound The Vaselines explore on the new songs.  There’s the country-noir of “The Devil’s Inside Me,” which plays like a Lee & Nancy tune, and the kiss-off pop of “Overweight But Over You.”  The Vaselines still revel in darkly humorous and suggestive lyrics, and those tendencies are put to best use in the title track (“It feels so good, it must be bad for me/let’s do it, let’s do it again”) and the simple sing-along “Mouth To Mouth.”  Though Kelly and McKee are 20 years older, they sound as melodic and smooth as ever.  That’s another argument in favor of the largely fuzz-free production.

What’s best about Sex With An X is that the songs are just what you’d want from a new Vaselines album.  They’re witty, heartbreaking and coy, often all at the same time.  “I Hate The ‘80s” is one of a few songs in which the duo’s age plays into their lyrical viewpoints.  Kelly and McKee harmonize over some pretty compelling reasons why the reverence for ‘80s culture is total bull.  Lines like “they put a bullet in a Beatle” and “it wasn’t all Duran Duran” make even this new wave fan question how much he really loves that DayGlo decade.  When not calling out an entire generation’s misguided rehashing of culture, The Vaselines are staging a cowpunk rave-up in “My God’s Bigger Than Your God,” an all-dismissing take on religion.  I’d accuse them of being preachy for not sticking with their strongest subject matter, but the song is just too darn catchy.  In the end, that’s what makes Sex With An X a welcome return: it’s not a total redefinition of The Vaselines’ sound, but it is an incredibly well-written and performed set.

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~ by E. on September 20, 2010.

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