If you're a small-time indie band looking for an opinion leader to lift you from obscurity, you can do no better than Kurt Cobain. That's the position Scotland's The Vaselines found themselves in when Nirvana covered a couple of their songs a few years after the duo recorded one LP then broke up.
Now, two decades and a couple of reunion tours later, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee have released their long-awaited(?) second LP, Sex with an X, on Sub Pop. The results are by no means disastrous but not exactly revelatory, either.
Sex is a mostly engaging if somewhat forgettable 12-song collection of cuddly indie pop. There's some charm in McKee and Kelly's hooky, rudimentary songcraft as they trade off lead vocals and sometimes sing in unison about relationships and rock 'n' roll. Seems for every high point, like the buzzy rocker "Ruined," there's a low point, like the wholly unnecessary "I Hate the '80s."
The Vaselines' keen pop sensibilities sometimes overcome the tossed-off nature of many of these songs. It's almost as if McKee and Kelly sensed that this record was the ultimate low-risk, high-reward effort, so they simply bashed out the first things that came to their heads and called it a record. Every so often on this record, they hit the mark. That's more than you can say for a lot of bands. And, anyway, Cobain loved 'em. Place in history secured.
Best song: "Mouth to Mouth" ("It all could be this easy / Like kissing with a K.")
Deja vu: Yo La Tengo's first record, Ride the Tiger.
I'd rather listen to: The recent collaborations by Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.