Album Review – The Vaselines

Vaselines – ‘V For Vaselines.’ (Rosary Music)

Like a lot of people, I discovered the Vaselines through Nirvana. Whilst it would have been great to think that people would have come to the Vaselines’ music anyway, the connection certainly did them no harm. Having broken up at the end of the eighties with one album and two EPS to their name, they started performing together again in the last decade and both as a support band and headliner. Their second album together as The Vaselines and first in two decades Sex With An X was them showing that they could still most definitely cut it.

So, four years on, can The Vaselines still cut it? Well…yes…but several listens in this is not as strong as their other material. It’s not to say that it’s a weak or average album, it’s good and solid enough, just not as spectacular as their other records. Too much of this album just feels a bit like a band influenced by The Vaselines.

There are, however, some excellent moments here which are worth checking out. Album opener and single ‘High Tide Low Tide’ provides an excellent entrance to the LP, ‘Single Spies’ is softer and country-inflected and ‘Earth Is Speeding’ sees them chanelling the still on hiatus* Sonic Youth.

Still worth hearing, though.


V For Vaselines is out now on Rosary Music.

*I’m kidding myself, aren’t I?

Forthcoming from The Vaselines

Are the Vaselines indie-pop’s answer to Vashtyi Bunyan?

Like the cult folk singer, they’re about to release their third album in a career that’s been hugely influential but with long, long gaps.

Entitled V For Vaselines, the album comes out on September 29 and the first track to do the rounds ‘One Lost Year’ can be streamed and downloaded above. The artwork seems to be Prefab Sprout means Marlon Brando meets Steve McQueen (you’re going to have to google all that if you don’t get the references).

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. High Tide Low Tide
2. The Lonely L.P.
3. Inky Lies
4. Crazy Lady
5. Single Spies
6. One Lost Year
7. Earth Is Speeding
8. False Heaven
9. Number One Crush
10. Last Half Hour

They have also announced three dates in Scotland and England to coincide with the album’s release:

29 September Caves, Edinburgh.
30 September Brudenell Social Club, Leeds.
1 October Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London.

An almost weekly update on The Last Battle

The Last Battle have done some excellent covers, so when it was announced that they were going to be doing a cover of a Scottish classic on their next single ‘Perfecting The Art (Of Saying Nothing’), which will be released on October 28, it was tempting to wind them up and ask what naff one they might be doing.

It isn’t. At all.

Instead, it’s their own take on The Vaselines’ ‘Son Of A Gun’ which as everyone knows (unless you have no interest in music of the last twenty-five years at all) was covered by Nirvana (Nirvana also covered ‘Molly’s Lips’ and ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’.

It’s really rather fine, and you can download it for free.

Avalanche Records to close?


Over the last few years, with Independent Record Stores struggling to keep their heads above water, Record Store Day has been promoted as an initiative to try and get more people into record shops. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, this is only a success if it actually gets people into the shops more than on just one day a year. As Matthew at Song, By Toad pointed out ‘In a sense Record Store Day reminds me a little of Valentine’s Day or, to be a little more facetious, Don’t Beat Your Wife Day – yes the message is the right one, but what, only today? What about the other 364 days of the year?’ (There are some excellent posts on Song, By Toad about the pros and cons of Record Store Day – if you have not read them, I suggest you do so).

It is with sadness that I found out this morning that Avalanche Records in Edinburgh will be shutting on January 6 2013. Owner Kevin Buckle and I may have had some frank exchanges of views over the years, but I am a regular customer. It might be overegging the pudding to say that Avalanche (along with Fopp, in its’ pre-HMV incarnation) was one of the reasons I moved to Edinburgh, but it wasn’t something that put me off, shall we say. It has had a major impact on my music collection as somewhere to buy, sell and exchange music* and was one of the first places to stock physical releases that I put out through 17 Seconds Records.

There may be some glimmers of hope, but the prognosis is that things will have to change. As Kevin says in his statement: ‘ I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and that date is Sunday January 6th 2013. I hope that by then there will be a plan but at worst I will simply close the shop and concentrate on expanding our online presence and pursuing other opportunities. I’ll always be keen to support Scottish artists but maybe the focus on how that is done will need to change. I’m happy to listen to all ideas of course. Avalanche is a fantastic shop window quite literally for Scottish artists and their music but sadly it is often taken for granted.

Up to that date I will need to take as much money as possible to catch up on just about everything (rent, rates, tax, record company bills etc) and therefore will have the sale I vowed I wouldn’t have. We are not short of stock and hopefully a sale when added to some Christmas business and the visitors here for the festive period will enable us to catch up. With the announcement that the new Frightened Rabbit album will be released on February 4th in an ideal world a new revitalised Avalanche would be in place by then but … unless there is a noticeable and prolonged improvement in business we simply can’t survive where we are.’

Read the full statement here

Avalanche have supported many Scottish artists particularly over the years. Not only did various members of bands work there at various points (including Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, X-Lion Tamer, Broken Records and Usurper, and that’s just those I can think of off the top of my head) but it has given a platform for people to hear new stuff. And in the internet age that’s actually more important than ever. I helped out in the store last week -and yes, people do actually come in and ask for recommendations about scottish artists. Trust me, ‘customers also bought this’ on certain online and download stores really ISN’T the same thing.

The music industry is changing, and it’s far from only being the small indies who are struggling. But in a very real sense, the message is clear: ‘Use it -or you’ll lose it.’

Here’s a couple of bands who have benefited from exposure in Avalanche, but I could name many more labels and artists…

eagleowl -‘Blanket.’ mp3

Meursault -‘Crank Resolutions.’ mp3

Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

Mogwai -‘Rano Pano.’ mp3

*Do you honestly think I keep every single physical release I am sent? I’m not paid to write this blog!

Gig review – The Vaselines


The Vaselines/Haight-Astbury/Foxgang -Edinburgh Bongo Club, September 15, 2010

A pretty-muched packed crowd tonight at Edinburgh’s Bongo Club for what leaves a glow for some time to come.

First up are Glasgow’s Foxgang (not to be confused with Foxface, obviously) who have an excelent take on a post-pink sounds that already sounds uniquely their own. ‘Easyjet’ in particular sounds like The Fall meets Franz Ferdinand (with additional help from the Dexys Midnight Runners horn-section when you check it out on their myspace). This being Edinburgh, most of the crowd are too self-conscious to dance, but they win the crowd over, leaving me and many others wanting more.

Haight-Ashbury I first saw supporting The Waterboys three years ago. I thought they were great then -and I think they’re fantastic now. Though the name and part of the the sound nod to 60s San Francisco, there’s an appealing darkness here that also owes much to the proto-punk of the Stooges and The Velvet Underground. Recent single ‘Freeman Town’ encapsulates much of what they’re about: three people making a sound that sounds like there’s way more involved, great harmonies from the girls Jennifer and Kirsty Heather and awesome guitar work from Scott james. Their given surname is Ashbury, and they are all family, apparently.

This is the opening night of the Vaselines tour and the crowd are clearly delighted to see them. Some people probably did see them twenty years ago, but then there’s others a good decade younger than me. They open with ‘Oliver Twisted’ and then tear straight into ‘Molly’s Lips.’ It’s great stuff.

The new album, Sex With An X has generated some good reviews as you would expect, and it’ll be interesting to see whether there’ll be more of it included earlier on in the set on future dates on this tour. The likes of ‘The Devil’s Inside Me’, the album’s title track and ‘I Hate the 80s’ are all interspersed with the songs from the back catalogue. I genuinely think that even in self-conscious Edinburgh the crowd might even start dancing if there was room to do so…

The day after will see Edinburgh visited by the Pope, and while Eugene and Frances don’t comment on this, it’s clear that sex and religion still occupy an important part in the vaselines’ mindset, quite often in the same song, though in a rather different way from how Prince used to approach it circa Lovesexy. ‘God’s Coming to strike us down’ remarks Eugene before they tear into ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’*

It’s a show for happy fans, and I can only begin to imagine just how good things will be by the time they reach Glasgow on the tour. Whilst the album features Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian, they are joined by two ‘Vaselines virgins’ as Frances McKee refers to them as, Gareth on bass and Paul on guitar, (no surnames apparently). There’s the right balance between the shambling sound of the records and being as tight as live band, and they’re even more powerful than when I saw them supporting Mudhoney last year.

Just as the Wedding Present still refuse to play encores, so the Vaslines cheerily mock it by pretending to disappear off stage but they’re straight on, and the version of ‘You Think You’re A Man’ rules, as ever. Great to have them with us again.

Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

*For the last time: the Vaselines’ orginal title was this. It was the cover that changed the title to include ‘don’t.’ And yes, I know what their myspace says.

The Vaselines

Album review – The Vaselines


The Vaselines -‘Sex With An X’ (Sub Pop)

It’s been (over)documeneted that the Vaselines were one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands. What continues to rankle is the people who comment that the band might have slipped into obscurity if it hadn’t been for Cobain, because, frankly, in the short period that they were together in the late eighties, the band that centered around Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly produced some very good stuff. One LP and two EPs, to be precise.

Since splitting in 1990, the pair have been involved in numerous other projects (I recommend Kelly’s Eugenius and his solo album, as well as Mckee’s Suckle), and have played together a few times. Finally, over twnety years since their first and so far only LP Dum Dum, comes Sex With An X.

And the nice thing is – it feels like they’re picking up exactly where they left off. Sure they weren’t the most accomplished or polished of bands on record, but that was never the point. They had a sense of ramshackle fun (they weren’t quite part of the c-86 movement), and lyrics that managed to be completely irreverent about sex and religion, quite often in the same song. This still remains, as typefied by the free track that’s been doing the rounds on the net for a while ‘I hate The 80s.’ ‘What do you know? You weren’t there!/it wasn’t all Duran Duran Duran Duran [sic]/You want the truth? Well, this is it/I hate the 80s, ‘cos the 80s were shit.’ No, it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s typical Vaselines and it feels like it’s twenty years ago. In a good way.

Their legend has grown in their absence – and they’re back to show that they’re just as important as many of the bands that Cobain claimed as an influence. How long they’ll work together is anyone’s guess, but this is a shambling indie-pop joy of an album. Oh, and the Vaselines 2010 sees our heroes Eugene and Frances backed on this album by Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian on guitar and bass respectively, and the 1990s’ Michael McGaughrin on drums. What more could you ask for?


Sex With An X is out now on Sub Pop.

The Vaselines -‘Sex With An X.’ mp3

The Vaselines -‘I Hate The ’80’s.’ mp3

The return of The Vaselines!


Yup, you did read that right.

The Vaselines, the seminal scottish band, much beloved by you know who, and indeed anyone with half an ear for great music are back. The core duo of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly will be releasing their long-awaited second album Sex With An X on -who else?! – Sub Pop on September 13 (September 14 if you live in the US or Canada, hey you can’t have everything).

The tracklisting is as follows:

Sex With An X
The Devil Inside Me
Such a Fool
Turning It On
Overweight But Over You
Poison Pen
I Hate the 80’s
Mouth to Mouth
My God’s Bigger Than Your God
Exit The Vaselines

Not only that but the Vaselines are touring! See the dates on their website; they include Edinburgh and Glasgow and two dates in Mexico.

And you can download the track ‘I Hate The 80s’ here:

Gig review: Mudhoney/The Vaselines

Mudhoney/The Vaselines – HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh (October 9, 2009)

(First things, first – apologies to St. Deluxe; really wanted to see you, made it to the venue at 7:45 but too late. Bought two of the 7″s by you on sale, so hope you feel supported).

It is a truth universally acknowledged, to misquote Jane Austen, that much of the success of The Vaselines is down to the fact that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan and Nirvana covered several of their songs. However, for a band whose original lifespan was a couple of years and produced one album and a couple of singles (and seems to have been repackaged at least three times), this seems unfair. Because what they produced was absolutely great.

They open with ‘Son Of A Gun’ and it makes me want to jump around with unashamed joy – even though i’m in a queue for water at the bar. Much of the crowd banter is led by Frances McKee, who wants to get our opinion on the whole thong issue. She’s a vest and pants girl, she tells us. Umm, glad we’ve got that straight…

Yes, they play the songs that Nirvana covered – ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ and ‘Molly’s Lips’ – but they also play other great tracks from their back catalogue like ‘Oliver Twisted,’ ‘Rory Ride me Raw’ and ‘Monster Pussy.’ The latter, Eugene tells us, got them ceonsored on the BBC – not twenty years ago, but a matter of days earlier when they weren’t able to play it on Vic Galloway’s Radio Scotland show. Frances who is in full flow tells us that it is not about vaginas (so glad we sorted that out) – but proceeds to dedicate it to the cat that they shoved up Eugene’s arse twenty years ago. Their cover of Divine’s ‘You Think You’re a man (But You’re Only A Boy)’ is as great as it is on record and reminds you that many of the bands out of the c86 movement were pretty anti-machismo. The live band also includes Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson on guitar (good to see you, not so sure about the curly mop though), and the 1990s drummer. Tonight was the first time they’ve played live in Edinburgh in twenty years – but boy was it good to see them.

It’s fair to say that a fair number of the people at the Picture House were there to see The Vaselines. I almost feel like Lord Voldemort -‘Mudhoney…I’d almost forgotten you were going to play.’ But play Mudhoney do. Very, very well…and very very loudly. watching the crowd from above, as my ears start to ring reminds me of the crowd behaving as they haven’t done at gigs in years. Not only moshing – but crowd-surfing – and if there hadn’t been a barrier, I’m pretty sure they would have stage-dived too. Security are looking mightily cheesed off. They thought all this had been clamped down on at gigs.

Mudhoney have now been with us for two decades and a bit, and their Stooges punk meets Sabbath sludge has not diminished with age. Unlike many of their peers from the late eighties era, they’re still alive, have never split to necessitate a reformation, nor have they been making ghastly solo albums (I’m looking at you, Mr. Corgan). Whilst it was Nirvana who ultimately captured the hearts of the wider public with an anthem about deodorant, when they tear into ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ I’m convinced the roof might collapse. It’s still a great song – up there with ‘Freakscene’ and ‘Teen Age Riot’ of songs that still simultaneously evoke a particularly place and time and have not dated.

Mudhoney’s early release Superfuzz Bigmuff actually referenced two effects pedals passed over in the early eighties when bands seemed to be going for clean guitar sounds. And looking at the crowd as they pass out tonight, you wonder if the person who passed these pedals onto Mudhoney wasn’t as important as Kathleen Hanna spraying ‘Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on a wall in Seattle.

Tonight we truly partied like it was 1989.

St Deluxe -‘New Wave Star.’ mp3

The Vaselines -‘Rory Rides Me Raw.’ mp3

Mudhoney -‘Touch Me I’m Sick.’ mp3

The Vaselines

The Vaselines were one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands…yeah, we know.

But it’d be nice to think that this fab scots indie band, whose music sounds so endearlingly shambolic that they make that other Cobain favourite, The Raincoats, sound almost shiny by comparison, would still be loved today even if Cobain hadn’t been a fan.

Though they were shortlived, their songs are just great, very scots, very sleazy and about sex. In the immortal words of Eugene Kelly:
‘The Vaselines were born out of the bored and very sick minds of Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. They were later joined by Eugene’s brother Charles on drums and James Seenan on bass. We only wanted to have some fun. We were friends of Stephan from “The Pastels” and he introduced us to Sandy McClean with whom he had set up a label “53rd & 3rd.” Stephan took us under his wing and produced our first two singles as we had no studio experience whatsoever. The first single was the first time we had ever been in a studio. We were camp and pretended to be sleazy and we were very drunk. Vaselines rehearsals involved meeting in the pub and talking about. James would often turn up and realise his bass was locked in a bar we used to drink in. Charlie turned up once without drum sticks and then constructed some from bamboo sticks, two nails and lots of tape. We soldiered on until 53rd & 3rd went bust. The band split the week the album was eventually released with help from Rough Trade. We were bored, had no money and sick of it. We hoped someone would get the joke. They did and we live on.’

Oh to have been young and living in Scotland in the eighties. Oh well, you eventually get to meet most of the great and the good if you hand around the central belt long enough…

My reader ‘La Squadra Italiana’ had requested some Vaselines, so why not? And maybe I’ll someday do a post on Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee’s post-vaselines music…

Vaselines -‘Dying For It.’ mp3

Vaselines -‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam.’ mp3

Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

Vaselines -‘Rory Rides Me Raw.’ mp3

There is a Vaselines homepage here and a wikipedia entry here

There is a fan page devoted to Eugene Kelly here, while Eugene Kelly’s MySpace page and Frances McKee’s myspace page can be reached by clicking on those links.

Scots indie! Part 2

The Vaselines

Just a quick post, but felt like posting some classic eighties scottish indie.

From Perhaps, which may be the most underrated scottish record of the eighties.

Associates -‘Breakfast 12″.’ mp3

The Fire Engines were a big influence on many scots bands, perhaps most notably Franz Ferdinand. I will post the split single that both bands did here at some point…

Fire Engines -‘Candyskin.’ mp3

OK so Psychocandy is the definitive scottish record of the eighties, but let’s not forget that there were some fantastic records afterwards too.

Jesus and Mary Chain -‘April Skies.’ mp3

I’ve posted this before, but it had to be part of this post. Just sheer class. Post-punk meets indie. Oh yes, oh yay…

Josef K -‘Sorry For Laughing.’ mp3

Their second single on the legendary Postcard label, and my favourite song of Edwyn Collins’ ultra-cool scottish heroes.

Orange Juice -‘Blue Boy.’ mp3

Later covered by Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels, still going in 2007, are fantastic. I met Stephen Pastel earlier this year, the most down to earth and shy musician I have ever met.

The Pastels -‘Nothing To Be Done.’ mp3

A huge influence on Nirvana, who covered this and two of their other songs, the Vaselines might well be Scotland’s answer to the Velvet Underground.
The Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

If you like these tracks, seek ’em out, goddamit!