It is a truth universally acknowledged, to misquote Jane Austen, that much of the success of The Vaselines is down to the fact that Kurt Cobain was a huge fan and Nirvana covered several of their songs. However, for a band whose original lifespan was a couple of years and produced one album and a couple of singles (and seems to have been repackaged at least three times), this seems unfair. Because what they produced was absolutely great.
They open with ‘Son Of A Gun’ and it makes me want to jump around with unashamed joy – even though i’m in a queue for water at the bar. Much of the crowd banter is led by Frances McKee, who wants to get our opinion on the whole thong issue. She’s a vest and pants girl, she tells us. Umm, glad we’ve got that straight…
Yes, they play the songs that Nirvana covered – ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ and ‘Molly’s Lips’ – but they also play other great tracks from their back catalogue like ‘Oliver Twisted,’ ‘Rory Ride me Raw’ and ‘Monster Pussy.’ The latter, Eugene tells us, got them censored on the BBC – not twenty years ago, but a matter of days earlier when they weren’t able to play it on Vic Galloway’s Radio Scotland show. Frances who is in full flow tells us that it is not about vaginas (so glad we sorted that out) – but proceeds to dedicate it to the cat that they shoved up Eugene’s arse twenty years ago.
Their cover of Divine’s ‘You Think You’re a man (But You’re Only A Boy)’ is as great as it is on record and reminds you that many of the bands out of the c86 movement were pretty anti-machismo.
The live band also includes Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson on guitar (good to see you, not so sure about the curly mop though), and the 1990s drummer. Tonight was the first time they’ve played live in Edinburgh in twenty years – but boy was it good to see them.
It’s fair to say that a fair number of the people at the Picture House were there to see The Vaselines. I almost feel like Lord Voldemort – “Mudhoney…I’d almost forgotten you were going to play.” But play Mudhoney do. Very, very well…and very very loudly. watching the crowd from above, as my ears start to ring reminds me of the crowd behaving as they haven’t done at gigs in years. Not only moshing – but crowd-surfing – and if there hadn’t been a barrier, I’m pretty sure they would have stage-dived too. Security are looking mightily cheesed off. They thought all this had been clamped down on at gigs.
Mudhoney have now been with us for two decades and a bit, and their Stooges punk meets Sabbath sludge has not diminished with age. Unlike many of their peers from the late eighties era, they’re still alive, have never split to necessitate a reformation, nor have they been making ghastly solo albums (I’m looking at you, Mr. Corgan). Whilst it was Nirvana who ultimately captured the hearts of the wider public with an anthem about deodorant, when they tear into ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ I’m convinced the roof might collapse. It’s still a great song – up there with ‘Freakscene’ and ‘TeenAge Riot’ of songs that still simultaneously evoke a particularly place and time and have not dated.
Mudhoney’s early release ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ actually referenced two effects pedals passed over in the early eighties when bands seemed to be going for clean guitar sounds. And looking at the crowd as they pass out tonight, you wonder if the person who passed these pedals onto Mudhoney wasn’t as important as Kathleen Hanna spraying “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on a wall in Seattle.
Tonight we truly partied like it was 1989.