Conventional wisdom dictates that the Vaselines might have been relegated to footnote status were it not for Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who regularly cited the little-known Scottish quartet's influence in interviews with the music press. Cobain's gospel-spreading no doubt accelerated their rise to cult sainthood, but truth be told, the Vaselines would have gotten there sooner or later on their own accord. Lewd but naïve and abrasive yet tender, the band's shambling, primitivist squall remains a perfect distillation of pop at its most guileless and euphoric.
The Vaselines were formed in Edinburgh in 1987 by singer/guitarists Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, who were later joined by Kelly's brother Charles on drums and James Seenan on bass. Soon signing to Pastels frontman Stephen Pastel's newly formed 53rd & 3rd label, the Vaselines embarked on their first-ever studio session, which yielded their debut single, 1987's fantastic "Son of a Gun." The follow-up, "Dying for It," appeared a year later, with the inclusion of viola player Sophie Pragnell plainly acknowledging the band's debt to the Velvet Underground. The demise of 53rd & 3rd proved fatal to the Vaselines as well, however, and the group dissolved the same week its lone studio LP, 1989's Dum-Dum, was released via Rough Trade, although the following year the original lineup briefly reunited to open for Nirvana in Edinburgh. Nirvana would go on to cover the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips" and "Son of a Gun" (both later compiled on their Incesticide collection) as well as perform "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" on their legendary MTV Unplugged appearance.
Renewed interest in the band resulted in the 1992 Sub Pop release of The Way of the Vaselines, an assemblage of all 19 of their official recordings. Eugene Kelly later went on to front Captain America (subsequently and rather unfortunately renamed Eugenius), while McKee spent the better part of the decade out of sight, resurfaced in Suckle, and released a solo album in 2006. Kelly and McKee eventually re-formed their band and played a series of shows — including a small U.S. tour — across 2008 and 2009. They recorded their second proper album, Sex with an X, and released it on Sub Pop in 2010. The next few years were spent with the duo working on solo projects before they reunited to record their second full album, V for Vaselines. The Ramones-inspired album featured many of the same players who helped make Sex, including Belle and Sebastian's Stevie Jackson and Teenage Fanclub's Francis MacDonald. The album was released on their own Rosary Music label in late 2014. ~ Jason Ankeny