Because so much has already written about The Vaselines, it would be a waste of time to rehash it all here. The highlights: the Scottish band had a short life in the late 80s, was loved by Kurt Cobain, and was made popular through its Sub Pop releases. It became fashionable to name-check the band after these posthumous endorsements, which brought The Vaselines some deserved attention.
The songs on this re-issue vary from resembalnces to Jesus And Mary Chain (“Teenage Superstars”, “Sex Sux”), Wire (“You Think You’re A Man”), The Chills (“The Day I Was A Horse”), Beat Happening (“Let’s Get Ugly”), Velvet Underground (“Lovecraft”), and so on. These are obviously and necessarily reductionist comparisons and teasing out which bands influenced The Vaselines versus which were influenced by The Vaselines is an exercise left to the reader. Let’s just say that there has been a lot of mutual admiration over the years in both directions.
By trading lead vocals, the core members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee gave the band a signature sound. They know how to take a sweet folk-punk tune and make it dark as easily as they know how to do the reverse. The track “No Hope” is a kind of folk song with heavily distorted backing guitar, but its message of despair is leavened by an almost cheery sing-song verse and chorus. Perhaps that’s one of the keys to The Vaselines’ appeal: the mix of emotions and the mix of styles, frequently occurring simultaneously. Especially for their time, this kind of thing made for enchanting listening both for its novelty and its affecting power. Another good example of this is the signature track “Son of a Gun,” where you can’t ever tell whether the sunniness wins out over the desolation.
Enter The Vaselines collects so much of The Vaselines’ material that it would be the ideal starting point for exploring this band’s output. It becomes a little repetitive, granted, as you get (often inferior) live versions of the same songs that you hear in their studio versions. Or maybe that’s my bias against live versions showing itself. But so much of the music here — stripped-down mixtures of pop and punk, with a Big Star emphasis on the pop side — merits a listen or two, its forgiveable that you’d get some redundancy in this completists’ collection.