The Vaselines
Enter the Vaselines
(Sub Pop)

Is it technically possible to love a band, to really love a band, if it turns out you mostly only really need to listen to their first two EPs? What if you're totally, staggeringly in love with those EPs (and a few other songs), though? This is the fly in the petroleum jelly that I've been wrestling with since receiving Enter the Vaselines, Sub Pop's deluxe reissue of the Scottish band's collected recorded material, much of which was previously compiled as The Way of the Vaselines. That album gathered the aforementioned two EPs, Son of a Gun and Dying for It, as well as full-length Dum-Dum; this release adds a second disc of demos and live recordings, as well as a pair of extensive printed interviews, conducted by Stephen McRobbie of the Pastels and former Stranger music editor Everett True.

Traditionally, the review of the deluxe reissue aims to tell you whether the extra tracks and tacky badge are worth plunking down for another physical copy of something you ought to already own (oh, don't tell me you don't have The Way of the Vaselines). But I didn't even make it through disc one—the previously released stuff—before discovering I only really needed, and was totally satisfied with, just its amazing first half or so. I realize that's kind of heretical, and yet I still think of myself as a sincere fan of the Vaselines.

This is because their best songs—"Son of a Gun," "Molly's Lips," "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," "Monsterpussy," their cover of Divine's "You Think You're a Man"—are simply indispensable, perfectly loose and playful (and sexy) indie pop that gleefully smears the lines between raunchy and twee. Is there a better way to start a record than the grinding waves of distortion that give way to the sunny guitar strumming and languorous, sing-song boy/girl vocals of "Son of a Gun"? Jesus, I could listen to that chorus forever. "Molly's Lips" and "Monsterpussy" are like flip sides of the same coin—on the former, Frances McKee sings airy and coy over typical rhythmic rumble and guitar jangle and one perfectly, almost comically, timed quacking trumpet that sounds more like a bicycle horn; on the latter, she's an appropriately aggressive animal, backed by fuzzed-out electric guitar and countered by Eugene Kelly's taxidermic threats. "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" (yes, I first heard it via Nirvana: Unplugged, too), with its melancholic melody, blasphemous humor, and reverberating but weirdly flat strings, is, ironically, just heavenly. "You Think You're a Man" is an endlessly looping and repetitive Euro-disco taunt marked by squishy guitars, Morse-code pulsing synths, and fey/horny vocals—it's brilliant, but I can never tell if it's way too long or way too short. And then there's the rest of the disc, all of which is fine, I guess, but none of which hits quite these same magnificent heights.

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As for that disc of added material: The highlights will be the never-before-heard demos of "Son of a Gun," "Rosary Job" (these guys really liked John Waters), and "Red Poppy"—the demos are muffled but bright, with McKee and Kelly backed by a drum machine. Also of academic interest is the evolution evident between the two live recordings, the first of which finds the band performing early material backed by, again, only a drum machine, and the second of which sees them performing as a full band—in that latter performance, the band flubs and repeats "The Day I Was a Horse," handling the situation with typical wit, blaming the "cock up" on drummer Charlie Kelly having "cancer of the drumstick" and suggesting that the audience pass a hat to take up medical donations or, better yet, bring a drink to the stage. It's cute, and the bonus disc is worth hearing at least once, but, duh, only the real, real, REAL Vaselines fans will need to own it. (I'm still keeping my promo copy, though.) recommended

The Vaselines play Tues May 12, Neumos, 8 pm, $20, all ages. With Hallways.