Reunited Vaselines look to the past with hate
When the Vaselines visited Los Angeles on a reunion tour last spring, guitarist-singer Eugene Kelly promised it wasn't a nostalgic trip. Nor was the cult low-fi band, beloved by critics and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, simply out for an overdue pat on the back after releasing just one album in 1989.
After all, in the years since Kelly's romantic relationship with his musical partner Frances McKee dissolved, a new crop of indie artists has kept the Vaselines' scrappy and sometimes sloppy take on '60s garage rock alive. Our city's own Dum Dum Girls, for instance, sport a name that nods to either Iggy Pop or the Vaselines' one and only album, "Dum-Dum," depending upon your generational reference point.
Sarcastic, and almost childishly obsessed with sex, the Vaselines fashioned beautifully simple melodies out of a mess of guitar and rudimentary electronics. Even when the band got serious, as it did on “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," a rewrite of a well-known Christian hymn, the band was looking ahead to adult life with skepticism.
Revisiting the Vaselines with last year's Sub Pop compilation "Enter the Vaselines," it's not just music of a time and place, but of an age. But any doubts that Kelly and McKee could make relevant music more than 20 years on were somewhat put to rest today, when the band unleashed the free download "I Hate the '80s," the first single of its upcoming Sup Pop comeback effort "Sex With an X," due in September.
Good news: The smart-aleck kids are now gleefully bitter adults, spitting on anyone with a sentimental yearning for days gone by with three-plus minutes of sunny, Velvet Underground-inspired jangly pop. There's perhaps some borderline tasteless lines, but the past is skewered with such a celebratory sweetness that the cold hearts of cynics everywhere will no doubt be warmed.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Claire Stewart