The Scottish indie-rock duo and Sub Pop era darlings, The Vaselines, have returned with V for Vaselines, only their third album since their formation in 1987. It follows suit delivering signature upbeat, fuzz-infused indie pop, overlapping vocals and persuasive lyrics. This time however, founding members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee go the spontaneous route with production while lamenting over unrequited love, crazy exes, love gone wrong and the ultimate fear of commitment.
Self-produced and recorded at the Castle of Doom (Mogwai’s Glasgow studio) and with admitted inspiration from curtly written Ramones standards, the album was recorded quickly with little development or doodling under the helm of engineer Tony Doogan (Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian). It’s less of a noisy, guitar-driven, angst-laden opus and more of a focused musing on the evolution of the ubiquitous punk rock ditty amidst relationship woes.
The Vaselines’ endearing sound prevails as they continue to juggle vocal responsibilities like passing the torch in a relay, all the while bouncing about various styles in tandem. “One Lost Year” layers their classic harmonization with airy drone and those infectious tag-team vocals. “Single Spies” artfully channels Velvet Underground and the Nico year(s), and is a wonderfully cerebral and seasoned avant-garde breakup song that blossoms while en route. “Number One Crush” has some surprising emo pop tendencies, expressive and sprightly charged with the delightfully droll chorus, “Being with you, kills my IQ.” Short and to the point, it’s the progressive post-punk indie hit of the record.
The missing element on this album is that heavily reverbed punk rock candor that most, perhaps needlessly, equate with The Vaselines. McKee and Kelly execute the pithy punk pop vibe but are more interested in crafting mood than reveling in the edgy, playful, garage discord that made them instantly charming, insatiable and oozing with personality. Though some songs on V For Vaselines lack that buzz, there’s still heaps of chemistry between the two, which lays the groundwork and ultimately delivers something satisfying.