When the Vaselines got back together triumphantly in 2008 to play live shows, that was nothing short of miraculous. When they followed it up with the rambunctious and fun album Sex with an X in 2010, that was also pretty special. Now in 2014, with the release of their second post-comeback album V for Vaselines, a significant portion of the magic has worn off. It's hard to sustain that warm and fuzzy feeling of a successful reunion for long, especially when the band sticks around and keeps making music. Frances and Eugene give it a strong effort, but the album sounds more like a Eugene Kelly with Frances McKee album than it does a Vaselines album. The songs are more earthbound and thoughtful, the sound is heavier and cleaner, the duo's vocals are sweetened more than in the past, and it's even more adult-sounding than Sex with an X. At least that album was favored by a scrappy, energetic sound courtesy of the band's original producer, Jamie Watson, that harked back to their early records. This time out, Kelly is behind the dials and he seems more interested in capturing the grunge-inspired feel of the first Eugenius album. The overly processed sound is punchy and full, but sands off a few too many of the rough edges that are part and parcel of the Vaselines legacy. All that being said, this is still a good Kelly and McKee album that features quite a few songs with great singsong hooks ("High Tide Low Tide," "The Lonely LP") and a couple nice ballads that show the band mellowing sweetly ("Single Spies," "Last Half Hour"). It also has a song ("Inky Lies") about politics, though, and that's not really why anyone listens to the Vaselines. Another song ("Crazy Lady") trots out some lazy lyrical conceits and sounds far too polite. In fact, that's really the big problem with the album. It's far too constrained and competent feeling, with every instrument playing exactly what it should be playing, every vocal placed perfectly in the mix, and everything sounding like perfectly normal and sedate rock music. Again, as a Kelly and McKee album, fine and understandable. As a Vaselines album, V can't help but be disappointing. None of the unpredictable magic they used to be able to conjure, in the distant past and on Sex with an X, is on display, and they seem to be resigned to the fact that they are just a good rock band now. Whether that's enough for longtime lovers of the band is a question that each lover will have to wrestle with in his or her own fashion.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra