Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REVIEW: The Vaselines - V Is For Vaselines

What does the triumphant return of The Vaselines -- and in my view V Is For Vaselines is a triumph -- mean?  A few things.  First, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee simply have a talent for writing solid pop songs with an up-front aggression coupled with a sense of humor.  The 2010 release Sex With An X and V Is For Vaselines demonstrate that the songs they created in their first incarnation were not an accident of youth.  The arrangements were, and are, lean, and the hooks are in all the right places.  The performances are energetic and the themes have the right mix of observation and dry humor.  Eugene and Frances were born to do this.  Second, The Vaselines are proof that some pairings simply have more chemistry than others.  Several decades after breaking up as a band and a couple, this duo manage to sound fresh and excited about what they are doing together.  Perhaps part of the secret is that they share a perspective that rock music is a fun enterprise and an ability to tap into their inner adolescent.

And whether my observations are spot on or not, you really don't need to think about such things.  The fact is that V Is For Vaselines stands on its own merit as a rock album with punch, heart and polish completely without regard for past history or sentiment.  The power and drive of opener "High Tide Low Tide", "One Lost Year" and "Number One Crush", for example, would be just as exciting if the artists were teenagers from Glasgow with no history or notoriety -- as indeed they were over two decades ago.  But the success of this album is more than just songwriting talent and a better production technology.  While retaining their sly and naughty edge, evidence of maturity peaks through.  And dueling soon-to-be-ex-lovers in "Single Spies" and closing beauty of "Last Half Hour" reveal an ability to slow it down and deliver a very affecting mid-tempo song.  Upon refection, perhaps the greatest triumph is Eugene and Frances' ability to shrug off the weight of being accidental underground stars, anointed by Kurt Cobain after they'd disbanded the first time, and focus simply on providing excellent rock music.

This is an album you'll be happy to have now, a year from now and the year after that.  You can order through their website.


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