For most, the Vaselines were a minor footnote in Nirvana’s biography: Kurt Cobain was a vocal fan of Scottish duo Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. The indie pop band had folded when Sub Pop released the compilation The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History in 1992.

After two decades off, the duo is back, but there is no nostalgic or reunion impression on Sex With an X. The new material merges the Vaselines DIY pop aesthetic with a spoonful of the thick guitar smudge of Kelly’s post-Vaselines project, Eugenius. Kelly and McKee’s dozen tunes are tightened with middle-aged cynicism and time-weathered candor.

Things kick off with the barraging “Ruined,” where Kelly grumbles about aging scenesters riding the coattails of their own fame, but the real winners are jangly cuts like the title track, about temptation with an ex-partner, or the bitter discourse “I Hate the ’80s,” where Kelly proclaims, “It wasn’t all Duran Duran.”

Grade: A



Sex With an X is currently available.