How I Learned to Love the Vaselines - It Wasn't a Tough Sell

Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. The Vaselines play Neumo's tonight.
Nirvana loved to play Vaselines tunes. It was always fun just to bust out a pop tune, and the songs written by the Scottish duo Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee fit our sensibilities a lot. So much, in fact, that we played them every chance we got. We covered a pair of their songs--"Son of a Gun" and "Molly's Lips"--on our 1992 album Incesticide, and in 1993 we covered their take on "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" on MTV Unplugged in New York. We had enjoyed listening to the Vaselines, and when we'd rehearse we'd bust out some of the band's riffs--and this led us to actually playing covers.

Now the Vaselines are back with a retrospective release and a tour of the U.S. Enter the Vaselines is out on Sub Pop, a deluxe collection of the band's releases, live performances, and demos. Here are my thoughts on their efforts:

Dying for It, 1988: I first heard this EP at this grand apartment Chad Channing had on Bainbridge Island. He had busted out some new releases, and I was immediately drawn to the Scottish duo's basic pop/rock sound, which dominated the Olympia music scene we were a part of at the time. There was punk energy--but also this sweet song with a viola called "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam." "Molly's Lips" even had a cute little horn squeak during the chorus, which cemented the endearing, childlike sensibility of much of the band's sound. Remember, punk rock is basically pop music. Just listen to Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. Kelly and McKee took that and mixed in an almost lullaby-like sensibility, with softer edges. When Chad told me there was a live cassette release of Beat Happening and the Vaselines performing together, I knew I wasn't off at all with my assessment.

Son of a Gun, 1987: This EP was a fun listen. "Rory Rides Me Raw" is about riding a horse through the morning dew --or is it a double entendre? I think the latter, but that's for listeners to interpret. But if you do want overt sexiness, the band covers the Divine tune "You Think You're a Man." (If you don't know Divine, she was the late drag queen Glenn Milstead, who starred in many John Waters films.)

Dum Dum, 1989: I played the heck out of the band's only full-length after recording it on a cassette. It has the sound and the pop hooks that Kelly has a knack for. Again, there were cute songs that had a sexy edge--most notably "Monsterpussy," which is really about a cat, I guess.

There will always be a Nirvana connection with Scotland, and the Vaselines are part of that. Once a magazine erroneously stated that we were from the coastal logging town of Inverness, Washington! Of course there is no such place, but there is an Aberdeen, Scotland. There should be a place for most things, and I'll always hold the Vaselines in my heart.

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