The Vaselines. Live at Sound Control, Manchester. 05/02/2011

Review by Emma Roy-Williams

When Kurt Cobain first drawled on MTV Unplugged that he was going to play Jesus Don’t Want me for a Sunbeam ‘The Vaselines’ way’ I was intrigued to know more. Judging by their name alone I am a fan and if an icon such as Kurt Cobain favours them then they must be good right?

Signed to Sub Pop the same label as Nirvana, this Glaswegian band were first together in the 80’s but have reformed with a new album ‘Sex with an X’. This is their first album of new material since their album, Dum Dum released in 1990.

Although they essentially made most of their music in the 80’s they have a distinctly 90’s indie pop sound, so you could say they were ahead of their time influencing the grunge and indie bands that were to follow, most notably Nirvana, who did covers of Molly’s Lips and Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam. Cobain even said that Eugene Kelly from the band was his favourite lyricist. So it’s clear to see they were a big influence on early Nirvana both lyrically and stylistically with their lazy, slung-back lyrics and simple chords.

There is no doubting that The Vaselines’ two and a half chord garage pop would have been a welcome antidote to 80’s overproduced pop but there is still the more pressing matter of what their music is like today and how it has updated itself for the newly assembled crowd of 2010. The answer is, I would say, not that much.

The enthusiasm of the fans who have come out to watch The Vaselines’ is clearly evident, but the overriding feeling is that this is a trip down memory lane; a chance to nod your head, tap your toes and sing along to the lyrics that remind you of being a teenager, there is even a little three person mosh- pit for one of their more up tempo songs, but for the main part the crowd is motionless and happy to bask in nostalgia with a far away look in their eyes rather than get truly excited.

Their look as is pretty stuck in the past, bassist Charlie Kelly (brother of Eugene) looks like the lead singer from the Dandy Warhols and Eugene Kelly (brother of Charlie) has on a black and red stripy jumper similar to the one famously worn by Cobain in the Teen Spirit video.

In their day, I am sure The Vaselines offered something new and refreshing and the influence they had on Nirvana is impressive, but an important pre- cursor for any re- formed band is how to move on from that and re- invent yourself. From the performance at Sound Control I see little that can propel The Vaselines into the future without riding on former glories. Never the less if Cobain likes them, who am I to argue?

At the end of the gig before the predictable encore we make our escape in to the night and go next door to a gig at the Dancehouse where my sister is watching Louis Barabas and The Bedlam Six. Never heard of them? Me neither. But we get let in for free and catch the last twenty minutes and experience more excitement then we had at Sound Control. So, I am endorsing them more than The Vaseline’s but I doubt it will hold quite as much kudos.

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