Scottish duo The Vaselines, Francis McKee and Eugene Kelly, split up in 1989, the week their debut album was released, so they weren’t around to take advantage when Kurt Cobain became a fan and recorded three of their songs with Nirvana.
With their throwback-to-89 release of Sex with an X, and a brief reformation/obligatory reunion tour in 2008, they are now back with a new album and a tour to coincide with its release.
The band is nearing the end of their twenty-date European tour, with one more pit stop: The Art School.
Apparently, they’ve been enjoying themselves, with McKee facetiously having a dig at bands who complain about the so-called drudgery of touring with the admission “I don’t know what the big deal is with bands who complain about touring, all we do is sit in a van and watch ‘Game of Thrones’ all day,” and Kelly jesting “yeah, we have played loads of lovely places… and Sheffield,” it’s this kind of rapport and humility that wins the crowd over throughout the night.
The band look comfortable tonight, a full unit who share smiles and glances across the stage during songs, with some of the nods seemingly esoterically within-band references.
It’s also refreshing that age seems to have had no maturing effect on McKee and Kelly’s immature innuendos and reserved profanity, compounded with their back-and-forth banter between songs and McKee’s anecdotal interludes, not only hilarious, but a joy to listen to.
Throughout the hour-and-a-half set, the unruly twosome offers a carbonated and bolstered revision of archetypal male-female sparring bouts in the conventional sensibilities of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
Whether trading disheveled lead vocals or creating scruffy, but tuneful, harmonies, Kelly and McKee make high-spirited sugar-punk-pop that encapsulates interpersonal discord with divertingly enjoyable gusto.
Highlights tonight include ‘The Devil Inside Me’ from Sex with an X, with McKee remarking before they kick into the song that “all the girls… you all have that craziness inside of you… don’t let the man beat it out of you,” before kicking into the lazy chant-like verses and sleazy sounding guitars, with Kelly espousing “I’ve got the devil/the devil’s inside me, I’ve got the devil in me/and it won’t let go/he made me fight/he made you fall/he made me push you/against the wall”.
Also, the self titled ‘Sex With An X’, a cheeky little number features a constant melody driven hook and tantalizingly-sweat-induced lyrics “it feels so good, it must be bad for me, let’s do it, let’s do it again/you look so right, you must be bad for me, let’s do it, let’s do it again”.
There are also the classics from Enter the Vaselines interspersed throughout the set, including: ‘Son Of A Gun’, ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ (played slightly slower with the lovely addition of brisk clean-cut guitar slides and arpeggios giving off a sycromose country-esque vibe), ‘Molly’s Lips’, ‘The Day I Was A Horse’, and ‘Hairy’, which lasts all of 1.47 seconds and finishes with some trashy but rhythmically tight slides on the lead guitar.
There is also the zestful ‘High Tide, Low Tide’, an effervescently asphalt-ripping Ramones-esque punk track, and the traversing ‘Earth Is Spinning’, with McKee acknowledging her preference for a slower paced life, while living in a wired world, offering her admission that she’s “not in it to win it”.
The Vaselines have an enormous cache of catchy, hooky, three-minute pop-tastic mini-epics, and the only downfall tonight is the depressing realisation that it’s taken them so long to get back together, the fact that they are having fun with the whole reunion malarkey is endearing and adds to the camaraderie.
An excellent gig, light in spirit, with no nonsense three-minute straight-to-the point pop songs; absolutely superb.
Words: Derek Robertson
Photos: Jayjay Robertson