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The Vaselines: Sex With An X


The Vaselines

Album: Sex With An X
Label: Sub Pop

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Like The Smiths and Beat Happening—two other bands born in the ’80s that are now considered forerunners of twee—The Vaselines were never as precious and delicate as they seemed. In fact, the band’s sugary indie-pop is rife with aggression, sarcasm, smutty jokes, and punk snarl. As a less-than-subtle reminder, the Scottish duo of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee (recently reformed after disbanding in 1990) has dubbed its comeback album Sex With An X. That lack of subtlety isn’t always a virtue, though. Gone is the playground innuendo of classics like “Rory Rides Me Raw” and “Molly’s Lips” (the latter is one of three Vaselines songs Nirvana covered); in its place are blistering rockers like Sex’s opener, “Ruined”—a heavy-handed censure of rock ’n’ roll excess that all but cites Kurt Cobain by name—and “Turning It On,” an angelically jangly tune that sounds like a warmed-over version of “Rory.” Sex still has its own charm; Kelly’s and McKee’s harmonies are as sweet-yet-deadpan as ever, and the disc’s playfully glum closer, “Exit The Vaselines,” underscores just how self-deprecating they remain. But since drawing the blueprint for twee more than 20 years ago, The Vaselines have upset a bit of the precarious balance between innocence and titillation that made their songs so striking the first time around.