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The Vaselines‘ story up to this point is one that has followed a well-worn arc: band forms, releases a couple of singles and an album, dissolves, and is slowly nurtured to cult status in the years that follow. Glaswegians Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee formed The Vaselines in 1986 during an especially fertile period in the Scottish music scene, with the C-86 movement in full bloom and excellent bands popping up like so many whack-a-moles. Their only LP, 1990’s Dum-Dum, was released by 53rd and 3rd, a label run by Stephen from The Pastels and home to like-minded acts including Talulah Gosh, Shop Assistants, and The Soup Dragons.
After Nirvana covered a trio of The Vaselines’ tunes, the Scots received renewed attention: K Records released a live album the band recorded at a London gig with Beat Happening, and in 1992 Sub Pop released The Way of The Vaselines: A Complete History. Twenty years on from their auspicious debut, The Vaselines have reformed to record Sex with an X, a twelve song set slated for a September 14th release on Sub Pop. This time around, Kelly and McKee have enlisted the help of some familiar faces, including The 1990s drummer Michael McGaughrin as well as a pair of blokes from Belle and Sebastian, Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea.
Buried in the eighth spot on the new disc is a song called “I Hate the ’80s,” a cynical rebuttal to my generation’s romanticized nostalgia for the decade. Kelly and McKee lend a twee affectation to lines like, “What do you know? You weren’t there. It wasn’t all Duran Duran,” as keyboards chirp over a loose soil of jangly guitar and spacious drums. It’s the sort of thing which could easily backfire–a band whose popularity is based in part on sentimentality for the bygone preaching against the choir–but The Vaselines are talented enough to keep things from ever becoming too bitterly scathing. Instead, it feels like they are playfully rebutting some of their own unanticipated acclaim, even when issuing the unlikely chorus-ender, “I hate the ’80s because the ’80s were shit.”
Indeed, The Vaselines themselves are their own counterargument, proof that not only was there plenty to love about that decade but also, thanks to them, there’s something more to love about the 2010s, too.