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Sex With An X 

By The Vaselines - Sub Pop

click to enlarge Sex With An X - BY THE VASELINES - SUB POP
  • By The Vaselines - Sub Pop
  • Sex With An X

It took a long time for The Vaselines to release their sophomore record, Sex With An X -- in fact just over 20 years. The Scottish-based band, essentially a duo, Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly, crafted minimalist Velvet Underground-influenced garage pop predating the recent slew of lo-fi, garage-pop bands, including Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and, most recently, Best Coast, by two decades. Formed in Glasgow in 1987, The Vaselines released two seven-inches and one full-length album, Dum-Dum, in 1989. Even though the band released some outstanding songs, such as "Son of a Gun," "Lovecraft" and "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam," they didn't garner much attention outside of Scotland and broke up shortly thereafter.

The lack of attention changed due to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. A longtime fan, Cobain aided in the band's brief 1991 reformation (they opened for Nirvana in Edinburgh), which led to a Sub Pop collection, The Way of The Vaselines: A Complete History. Then in 1993 Nirvana performed the retitled "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam" on MTV. The song was subsequently released on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York, thus pulling The Vaselines out of near-obscurity. Fortunately, the band's history wasn't quite "complete" either.

McKee and Kelly continued with their own projects: McKee fronted Suckle and released a solo record, while Kelly formed Eugenius. None of those projects quite matched The Vaselines. Together they'd formed a perfect foil and complemented one another, resulting in a unique dual vocal delivery. Now, once again, McKee and Kelly have joined forces, co-writing all the songs on Sex With An X with a fresh exuberance.

From the charging, noisy opening cut, "Ruined," to the punk-bubblegum of the title track, "Sex With An X," to the cow-punk "My God's Bigger Than Your God," the songwriting/singing duo has not lost any of its humorous irreverence wrapped in sing-along pop melodies and raw instrumentation. Assisted by Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson, bassist Bob Kildea, and drummer Michael McGaughrin from the band 1990s, The Vaselines successfully updated their sound without losing any of their original charm. The deceptively upbeat "I Hate the ’80s" puts a pin to the sentimental bubble of that "Me Decade" -- "What do you know? You weren't there. It wasn't all Duran Duran. You want the truth? Well, this is it. I hate the ’80s ‘cause the ’80s were shit."

Sex With An X is proof that The Vaselines are still poignant, sharp and smartly funny. The "X" in the title serves as an ironic metaphor, referring to the band's reformation. "Feels so good it must be bad for me... Let's do it, let's do it again," sing McKee and Kelly. Leave it to The Vaselines to bring back "bad" to mean good. So good.

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Mark Shikuma

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