Album Review: The Vaselines' Sex With An X Combines Simplicity + Wit For Perfect Pop Songs

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Artist: The Vaselines

Album: Sex With An X

Label: Sub Pop

Release date: September 14

Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Buy

Download: "Sex With An X"

In an era of Auto-Tune and "orchestral-pop," two middle-aged ex-lovers from Glasgow, Scotland who just sing and play their guitars have made the year's best -- most uncomplicated and straightforwardly quality -- pop record. Take Sex With An X's title track; using three tried-and-true pop song ingredients -- rah-rah handclaps; a repetitive, cycling chorus; and guilty, admissive lyrics ("Feels so good, it must be bad for me/ Let's do it, let's do it again"), it's the catchiest, most carefree pop song you've heard in months. Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee's songwriting formula hasn't changed much since their debut was released twenty years ago, but it works so well, why would they? Using only their knack for animated melodies, breezy guitar riifs, snarky lyricism, Sex With An X is able to convey a world of rage ("Ruined"), melancholy ("The Devil's Inside Me"), irritation ("I Hate the 80s" -- "What do you know? You weren't there/ It wasn't all Duran Duran, Duran Duran"), resignation ("Overweight But Over You," about the condition known as Eating Too Much When You're Depressed; Kelly and McKee gleefully shout, "Hey fat mama! I'm a fat man!"), and reality checks ("Poison Pen," which could be said to reflect the duo's own former romantic relationship -- "You compared me to an angel," sings Kelly; "Yes, Lucifer, I fell for you," McKee responds).

Tender young bands looking to change the face of pop music with their metaphysical lyrics and hi-tech electronic equipment could learn a thing or two from the Vaselines. "I think he liked the simplicity of the songs," Eugene Kelly told me recently, speaking of his and McKee's most famous fan, Kurt Cobain. "There was something childlike in them, some innocence." Sex With An X continues with that tradition of simplicity and clear lines -- it doesn't pretend to be anything more than a collection of pure, unadulterated pop music, and with songs this good, it doesn't need to be.

The Vaselines will be at Neumos with the Dum Dum Girls and the Young Evils on Friday, October 22; it is surely a show you don't want to miss.

 
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