Makeup Sex

Eugene and Frances slip easily back into the Vaselines.

There's a song on the Vaselines' new record, last month's giddy Sex With an X, in which Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee sing "You're gonna use a knife/To take a slice/And cut me out/Of your life" before gleefully shouting "Hey fat mama! I'm a fat man!"

"It's just about comfort food," Kelly said on a recent phone call. "Sometimes when you're really brokenhearted or you're just not having a good time, it's very easy to just eat. I went through that a couple years ago myself. I'd get up in the morning, go to the shop, and buy lots of cakes and sit in the house and eat all day."

Kelly and McKee themselves went through a dual split 20 years ago (although neither got fat): Shortly after Sub Pop released their debut, Dum-Dum, the couple's romantic relationship ended, and so did the Vaselines. Fast-forward two decades, and the Scottish duo's back at it—musically speaking, at least (McKee is now married, Kelly is single). And while years and relationships have gone by, the music sounds much as it did in 1990—simple, breezy, and witty, the qualities that attracted their most notable fan.

"I think he liked the simplicity [of the songs] and the androgyny," says Kelly of Kurt Cobain, who famously declared the Vaselines his "most favorite songwriters in the whole world." "There was something childlike in [our songs], and some innocence," says Kelly. "It wasn't really about serious matters."

The same can be said for Sex With an X, one of the year's most purely exuberant records, bursting with light vocal harmonies, animated melodies, and breezy guitar riffs.

"We just wanted to make a positive record, quite upbeat," says Kelly. "We wanted to make people happy."

One thing seems different, though—a tongue-in-cheek lyricism that reveals a side of the pair's songwriting more personal than just mindless fun. The track "Poison Pen," for example, is a conversation between two people who bicker and fight but can't seem to get away from each other—"You compared me to an angel," sings Kelly; "Yes, Lucifer, I fell for you," McKee responds.

"I thought it was quite fictional, about people having a scream," says Kelly, "but Frances thinks it was inspired by us."

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