Enter the Vaselines
The legions exposed to a glimpse of The Vaselines via Nirvana’s ragged crunch pop takes on “Son of a Gun” and “Molly’s Lips” from Incesticide were given a panoramic view when Sub Pop reissued the act’s entire discography with 1992’s The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History. The collection, which included their sole LP Dum-Dum, along with the Son of a Gun and Dying for It EPs, evinced an unlikely yet brilliant meeting of C86 effeteness with the roughshod, reckless strains of The Velvet Underground circa White Light/White Heat. For an encore, Sub Pop delves even more deeply into the vaults on Enter the Vaselines, collecting a trio of nascent demos and a pair of live gigs from the band’s canon for a bonus disc, while giving the original EPs and LP a sorely needed remaster.
Rife with double entendres, the songs’ subjects run the blasphemous, licentious gamut, from horses and sex (“Rory Ride Me Raw,” “The Day I Was a Horse”) to sacrilege and secular redemption (“Teenage Superstars,” “Sex Sux (Amen)”). Their barbed version of twee pop was certainly a spiritual antecedent to later sordid excursions by fellow Glaswegians Belle & Sebastian (See If You’re Feeling Sinister’s “Judy and the Dream of Horses”). But it never lacked in pathos, most poignantly illustrated on the scarred balladry of “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” as profound and subversive a rock ‘n’ roll invocation of Jesus Christ since Patti Smith brazenly intoned “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” at the outset of Horses.
Of the previously unreleased demos, the threadbare “Rosary Job” is a highlight, all drum machine patter, lachrymose melodies, and desperate yearning, elliptically channeling the lascivious depravity of John Waters’ film Multiple Maniacs as Eugene Kelly achingly laments, “There’ll be no hesitating/I’ll be waiting one hundred years just for you.” The sad-eyed vignette “Red Poppy” is grounded by a pastel, “Femme Fetale”-like guitar chime, with the off-kilter harmonizing of Kelly and Frances McKee bleeding gloriously into the Spartan mix.
The live shows, while seemingly execrable on the surface, chart a vital documentation of the growth of the band. A 1986 Bristol show is shambolic and careening, a scant six tracks swallowed by the din of audience banter and smatterings of heckles, while a 1988 London gig paired with Beat Happening finds the band tightening the screws with refined chops and sharpened bile, and even nods to the Olympia act sonically on the inchoate cacophony of “Sex Sux (Amen).” (www.myspace.com/thevaselinesband)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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