• Vaselines
  • Dying for It EP (UK 53rd & 3rd) 1988 
  • Dum-Dum (UK 53rd & 3rd) 1989  (UK Avalanche) 1991 
  • All the Stuff and More (UK Avalanche) 1992 
  • The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History (Sub Pop) 1992 
  • Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop) 2009 
  • Captain America
  • Wow! EP (UK Paperhouse) 1991 
  • Flame On EP (UK Paperhouse) 1992 
  • Eugenius
  • Oomalama (Fire/Atlantic) 1992 
  • Mary Queen of Scots (Atlantic) 1994 

Glasgow singer/guitarist Eugene Kelly, a onetime Pastel and BMX Bandit, broke into the international pop underground as half of the Vaselines, Scotland’s ramshackle brilliant noisy love-pop minimalists. (Frances McKee was Kelly’s partner; the group also used a rhythm section and other musicians at times.) The band’s brief recording career in the late ’80s was facilitated and partly produced by scene patriarch Stephen Pastel and later received a helpful thumbs-up from Nirvana, who were fans enough to cover “Molly’s Lips,” “Son of a Gun” and “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.” (Following the lyrics rather than the title, the last song turned up on MTV Unplugged in New York as “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam.”) The originals of those — plus everything else the group ever completed, namely the three-song Son of a Gun 7-inch, the four-song Dying for It EP and the Dum-Dum LP — comprise The Way of the Vaselines (known in Britain as All the Stuff and More) a handy and frequently delightful 19-track collection. Enter the Vaselines expands that into a two-CD (three-LP) collection with two live shows and demos for “Son of a Gun,” “Rosary Job” and “Red Poppy.”

After the Vaselines, Kelly formed Captain America, which, following two ace singles, abandoned its moniker under threat of legal action from Marvel Comics and adopted his nickname, Eugenius, instead. Released in the stylistic wake of Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque and not that far removed from the way of the Vaselines (except for the production, a thickly laid-on spread of guitar and harmony vocals), Oomalama introduces a quartet firmly under Kelly’s loopy direction and sharp pop instincts. Calmly applying his Robyn Hitchcocky voice to stellar songs that roll even music (a raucous catchy pop rush somewhere between the Byrds and Stooges) and odd lyrics, Kelly and his three bandmates make a merry mess that is as sensually satisfying as it is delightful. The wonderfully anthemic title track consists solely of the nonsense title and the phrase “I am alive and back again”; “Breakfast” is insistent on the point that “sometimes I can’t help falling down”; “Bed-In” begins by observing, “I’ve watched so much TV my head’s gone square.” There’s not a bad tune in the bunch, and highlights like “Flame On” and “Buttermilk” abound. The American edition expands the original Paperhouse UK issue with three tracks, including a gorgeous cover — with strings — of Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer.”

In light of such a brilliant debut, Eugenius’ next album was likely to fall short, and Mary Queen of Scots doesn’t stint on the disappointment. Craig Leon’s blandly efficient production tightens up the band’s sonic act to the detriment of songs that are already vastly inferior to Oomalama‘s joy-filled gems. The shortage of inspiration in both writing and performing is obvious, blanketing the whole half-hearted effort like an overcast day. The tuneful “Blue Above the Rooftops” and the robust “Love, Bread and Beers” partially share the prior set’s virtues; the album’s other obvious standout, “Let’s Hibernate,” contains some of its few interesting lyrics, especially a couplet that might easily be used to describe what’s gone wrong: “You’re ugly and rational now/You’ve really got no point to make.”

[Ira Robbins]

See also: BMX Bandits, Pastels