Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 3/10/10 w/ Additional Edits.
One of the unsung heroes of 1980s indie-pop, the Vaselines were a band that didn’t last very long in their four year career from 1986-1990 where they released two EPs and a studio album. Yet, the band did manage to capture the attention of one of rock’s future superstars in Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The Vaselines would get attention from Nirvana as they covered a few of their songs for various recordings. In 1992, the famed Sub Pop indie label released a compilation of the band’s entire body of work that brought them cult attention.
Then in 2006, Vaselines co-founders and songwriters Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee reunited to tour together to promote their own solo albums. This led to the reformation of the band without original rhythm section in bassist James Seenan and drummer Charlie Kelly. In 2009 while the band did some shows, Sub Pop decided to reissue the 1992 compilation they released into a deluxe edition release that is also filled with demos and live recordings entitled Enter the Vaselines.
Enter the Vaselines is a two-disc compilation of material that features the Vaselines’ entire recording plus demos and live recordings the band made from 1986-1990. The first disc features the band’s two EPs plus their lone studio album Dum-Dum all remastered for the compilation while the second disc is filled with demos, outtakes, and live material. Featuring a mixture of noisy indie-pop to express Eugene Kelly’s rocking side with Frances McKee’s more sweet, poppier side. It is truly one of the most fascinating compilations and releases of one of the most obscured but beloved indie-pop bands that got some attention from its biggest fan in the late Kurt Cobain.
Opening the first disc are three tracks from the band’s 1987 debut EP Son of a Gun that begins with the noisy yet twee title track. Featuring growling yet jangle-wash guitars led by Eugene Kelly’s nasally-yet-hollow vocals with Frances McKee singing the chorus with her angelic vocals. The song is a fun, upbeat track that is carried by Charlie Kelly’s stomping beats and a rollicking piano track in the background. Rory Rides Me Raw is a folk-driven track led by brimming acoustic guitar tracks that is followed by a washy electric guitar track as it’s led by Eugene Kelly’s vocals as McKee joins him in the chorus with a funny song about sex. The next track is a cover of DIVINE’s You Think You’re A Man is an upbeat, electro-pop driven track led by shimmering drum machines and bass synthesizers with wailing guitars as McKee sings playful yet snarling lyrics about sexual satisfaction with Kelly joining along.
The next four tracks are from the 1988 EP Dying for It that begins with its title track. A raucous, upbeat track with wailing guitars and a pounding bass track from James Seenan. With Charlie Kelly’s pummeling drums, Eugene Kelly sings playful lyrics with McKee singing along in the chorus. Molly’s Lips is a jangly, bouncy track led by McKee’s ethereal vocals with honking horns in the background. Filled with lively lyrics about a girl who will do anything, it is one of the band’s finest tracks. Teenage Superstar is an upbeat yet rocking track with driving yet snarling guitar riffs with Kelly’s vocals taking charge filled with nasty lyrics. Even as it is filled with humorous yet playful lines and Charlie’s pounding beats. Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam is a mid-tempo ballad with a washy guitar, bouncy beats, and a soothing string performance with Kelly singing inspiring yet spiritual lyrics that work in its simple presentation.
The next 12 tracks are material from the band’s only studio album Dum-Dum plus an unreleased track and an alternate version of one of their songs from their second EP. The first track in that section is Sex Sux (Amen), a charging rocker with pummeling beats and growling guitars. Along with a blazing piano accompaniment, Eugene Kelly sings snarling vocals with angry yet funny lyrics with McKee joining along on backing vocals. Slushy is a driving rocker with mid-tempo rhythms and blazing guitar growls as Kelly and McKee sings quirky lyrics that mixes noise-pop and twee-pop. Monsterpussy is a song about a monstrous pussy that is filled with pummeling drums and charging guitars as both McKee and Kelly sing the song with McKee doing the chorus and Kelly singing the verse. The unreleased track Bitch is a country-inspired track with jangly riffs and a twangy guitar melody where McKee & Kelly sing the song with angry though odd lyrics.
No Hope opens with wails of feedback from a melodic guitar track with an acoustic accompaniment as Kelly and McKee sing the slow but soothing ballad filled with dark lyrics as it includes a slow yet steady drum fill from Charlie Kelly. Oliver Twisted is an upbeat rocker with pounding beats and swirling guitar riffs that drives the song as it features Kelly and McKee singing with crazy lyrics to this bouncy yet fun track. The Day I Was A Horse is another upbeat song with driving guitar riffs as it has a speedy rhythm where Kelly and McKee sing playful lyrics as it’s a simple, fast one-minute, twenty-eight second song. Dum-Dum is a fast, punk-driven track with driving guitars and fast-paced vocal from Kelly and McKee with snarling lyrics.
Hairy is another raucous rocker with growling riffs and pummeling beats as it features the band going all out with snarling vocals and punk-inspired lyrics. Lovecraft is another fast-paced song with bouncy beats and a fast-paced acoustic guitar accompaniment underneath the swirling guitars in the background. With Kelly’s calm vocals, it’s a playful yet chaotic song that shows the two sides of the band in their diverse take towards pop music. Dying For It (Blues) is a slower, bluesy version of Dying For It with sliding blues guitar riffs and wailing vocal harmonies from Kelly and McKee in the chorus and backing vocals. The last track to close the first disc is Let’s Get Ugly is an upbeat rocker with Charlie Kelly’s pummeling beat as Eugene Kelly sings in his snarling vocals with McKee’s angelic vocals for this punishing, blues-laden rocker filled with dirty lyrics as it is a fitting close to the first disc.
The second disc begins with a trio of demos including two songs the band never officially recorded. The demo for Son Of A Gun is stripped down with just an electric guitar and the voices of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee in a rough form. The song Rosary Job is a mid-tempo ballad that has Kelly’s dreamy vocals taking charge as he’s accompanied by a washy guitar and a tapping drum machine track. Even as it features cool, somber lyrics to complement the tone of the track. The last demo is for the song Red Poppy, a jangle-pop style track with arpeggio guitar flourishes as it’s led by McKee’s somber vocals as she’s joined by Kelly singing along as it is a wonderful demo from the band. The next five tracks are from a 1986 show in Bristol where it’s just Kelly and McKee with a drum machine. Live versions of Son Of A Gun, Rosary Job, Red Poppy, Rory Rides Me Raw, and You Think You’re A Man are sparse and rough where the band was just developing their sound. Yet, they’re definitely quite interesting as they’re just playing to a crowd who didn’t seem interested.
The remaining nine tracks of the second disc is a live performance from the band as a four-piece for a 1988 show in London. Fast-paced songs like Dying For It, Molly’s Lips, and Let’s Get Ugly are full of energy despite the sloppiness which is still fun to hear. Songs like Monsterpussy, Teenage Superstars, and Sex Sux (Amen) are just as raw and fun to hear as it balances the band’s sloppy, raucous sound with a fun element of pop. Another song in The Day I Was A Horse is performed twice where the first time, things went wrong due to a malfunction in Charlie Kelly’s drums where the band played it a second time. With Teenage Superstar being the closing track, preceding it is a cover of Gary Glitter’s I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Til’ I Saw You Rock N’ Roll) that is full of high-octane energy with pummeling beats and driving guitars as Eugene Kelly sings the track with snarling vocals.
Enter the Vaselines is a superb compilation from the band and Sub Pop records that explores the entire work of one of the most beloved cult bands in the indie music scene. While new listeners would be more interested in the first disc of material. The second disc does have something hardcore fans can enjoy as it features rare demos and live performances. With the band doing occasional reunions, it’s a great compilation to see where some of the roots of today’s indie-pop comes from as well as where Nirvana got a bit of their sound. In the end, Enter the Vaselines is a must-have for fans of noisy yet catchy indie-pop.
© thevoid99 2011