It’s no surprise that I would like The Vaselines’ new album V for Vaselines, as an overweight teenager with a guitar and a lot of free time, I unwittingly learned a couple of Vaselines songs—”Molly’s Lips”, “Son of a Gun”, and “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam”—that had been covered by one of their more commercially successful Sub Pop label-mates. I repeated the refrain “kiss, kiss Molly’s lips” ad infinitum, driving every one crazy in the process.
There was something so pure in those three songs that made them indelible to young ears. They are endearing in the most sincere way, that yesterday after listening to Dum Dum, their first LP, and The Way of The Vaselines compilation, and this latest effort that I wondered why I hadn’t been listening to them more often, coming up only with the excuse that by the time I discovered who actually wrote those songs that I was singing, I stood a slim chance of finding the CDs in the local Best Buy.
V for Vaselines, their second release since reforming is astonishing in that it is able to maintain that youthfulness of their first albums and EPs that came out a full quarter of a century earlier. The ba-ba-bas and oohs, the thick guitars and strong back beats of “High Tide Low Tide” and “Number One Crush” comes off as a young band that just spent a day writing songs at Rockaway Beach on the suggestion of the Ramones.
And V pulls off that trick that those early punk records made, where each song is its own insular world, could very well be the A-side of a single, but still fits so well in the landscape of an album. The brief 33-minute run time really ties the room together, a goal of Eugene Kelly’s, who said “I just wanted to write some really short punk rock songs, just get into people’s ear straight away and then get out as quickly as possible.”
Traces of K Records label-mates Beat Happening show up here and there, but that doesn’t mean that this album suffers from stasis, 25 years have passed, and the album shows. It is lo-fi only in the way that an album recorded in the age of Pro Tools could be (to regain the “recorded on a shoestring budget” sound, would you have to record using only GarageBand? An iPhone?). The clean sound now serves them well, reinforcing the twee and jangle on songs like “One Lost Year” and “Earth is Speeding.”
France McKee’s voice hasn’t lost any of the qualities that made those early songs great, but the complement of a keyboard on “The Lonely L.P.” really makes her vocals stand out. The same goes for the slide guitar on “False Heaven,” which is like a stick of sweet cherry bubblegum. The two slower tracks “Single Spies” and “Last Half Hour” pair Eugene and Frances voice’s together to create a melancholic effect that only Glaswegian bands seem to pull off with any success. One can’t help but agree with Michael Azzerad’s statement “V for Vaselines is a celebration of the continued chemistry of Eugene and Frances.”
The Vaselines have successfully created an album that both honors their past, but also moves them forward with V for Vaselines—and this is certainly something not every band can do after breaking up and reforming years later (I’m looking at you Pixies). Hell, this is something most bands can’t do even on their first album.
And while The Vaselines initial brush with fame came on the recommendation of a very famous supporter, V for Vaselines once againproves that the support was worth it all along.
Article by: Christopher Gilson