CD Review: The Vaselines — Sex With An Ex; Playing The EARL, October 12

The Vaselines
Sex With An X

Sub Pop

By Ellen Eldridge

There exists a certain joie de vivre and an accepted amount of poison, hidden behind a tongue-in-cheek attitude, in pop punk songs and the Vaselines are no exception with the release of their sophomore album Sex With An X over 20 years after their debut. The opening track plays like a mono version of some twisted, unintelligible nursery rhyme which bursts into “Ruined” with its opener, “Smack crack, Fleetwood Mac/You’ll have a heart attack/You’re never coming back/Ruined ruined.”

Produced by the same Jamie Watson who produced that first album, Dum Dum, and recorded over a two-week period, Sex With An X does not feel rushed but rather like a joyful yet biting release. While the Vaselines recorded a moody and entertaining debut, the widely accepted opinion is that Nirvana’s choice to cover three of the songs on the first album led to the current resurgence of Vaselines flavored melody. Be that as it may, Frances McKee, who coyly stands in the shape of an X on the album cover, and Eugene Kelly, who smartly crosses his arm across his body, released a collection of characteristically catchy songs blended in pop and punk elements.

The exact reasons why The Vaselines broke up the same week as their debut release are unknown to those who missed the first go ’round. New listeners can still revel in this album, with several of the songs seem to stick to a formula in their construction holding attention with clever riffs and refrains which leave listeners clapping and singing along. One of the moodier songs, “The Devil’s Inside Me,” floats effortlessly over a haunting bass line; it will stick in fans’ heads for days after a single listen. Lyrically, the songwriters convince a new generation of their playful contempt for society with songs like “I Hate the 80s,” which alludes to missed opportunity, and “Overweight but Over You,” which uses metaphor smartly despite the odd comparison between a meal and a relationship requiring “a knife to take a slice and cut me out of your life.” Other favorites include “Turning It On,” which would have worked well as a closing track. It seems to speak, in harmony and alternating lines shared by Frances and Eugene in duet style, to the past while looking to the future. Lines like the opener, “I should have met you a long time ago/Maybe I did, but I didn’t know,” share the sentiment of a couple of friends lamenting what might have been while still creating something with which to move forward. Currently, The Vaselines are touring the United Kingdom before playing a few East Coast dates in October.

The Vaselines play The EARL on October 12.


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