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Ear to the Ground: The Vaselines’ “One Lost Year”

The Scottish indie-rockers are back with prototypical tunes and more confident-sounding guitar work.

Most of us were not cool enough to hear about Glasgow indie-pop darlings the Vaselines until after Kurt Cobain championed them as one of his favorite bands and Nirvana covered their 1987 songs “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun” on Incesticide.

“One Lost Year” is the first single from V for Vaselines, the band’s third album following 2010’s Sex with an X, and, remarkably, it sounds as timeless as all their other recordings. Band founders Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee sing with the same youthful voices that first hit tape in the late ’80s. And the melodies here bob and bounce with the same balance of innocence and tension that helped pioneer the twee-pop subgenre.

If anything sounds noticeably different from the band’s beginnings, it’s the guitars: Back in the day, they were one of the first to play with slightly out-of-tune guitars—an endearing quality that had indie nerds such as a young Pavement and Sebadoh deliberately detuning their machine heads to get that couldn’t-care-less indie sound.

The guitars here are very much in tune and wield a more confident prowess in playing than Kelly’s prior penchants for sounding as if he just pulled his guitar from a soft case and hit “Record” before tuning. There are even moments in the song’s solo that squeal and distort with the discordant bravado of fellow Glasgow musicians the Jesus and Mary Chain.