On one hand, the reunion of Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly allowed for a surprise of an appearance in the U.S.—they arrived in Los Angeles for the first time last year, two decades older but still with a playfully dirty sense of humor, more she than the dry he, and if anything, this new record is an excuse to continue on and play those old, cheeky songs in a live setting between jokes about muff. However, this record is not Chinese Democracy Part II, demonstrative of twenty years' worth of effort, though it may as well be, and in fact only serves to date its Glaswegian creators.

"Ruined" is, musically, an update on "Dying for It," more electric than most Vaselines tracks old and new; its lyrics could easily be about any washed up user of a celebrity (Amy, Pete, etc.), and it kicks off an unexpected trail of clean production. The title track, which is more in the minimalist twee indie style of '80s Vaselines, feels somehow dull and seemingly longer than its three and a half minutes. "I Hate the '80s" speaks to the young 20-somethings who pissed hearts all over synths and leggings in an opportunity to revel in false nostalgia ("What do you know? You weren't there. It wasn't all Duran Duran."). But while it reminds that there were negatives to the decade that brought neon pop culture—"you put a bullet in a Beatle/started beating on the people/a wall that wasn't there/a war that lead nowhere"—it's untimely by now. Which, perhaps, is to be expected, given how long the album took to arrive in the first place. They've arrived too slowly to speak to the kids.

Though the Vaselines are certainly worth visiting, and their live show is not to be missed, Sex with an X is a disappointment that more or less lacks the humor of old. There are stories here, and an attempt at showing edge, but singing of an affair or the devil's influence isn't believable much in this instance, nor is there bite where there was once smart wording. Kelly and McKee's voices are good as ever, but this new recording just wasn't worth the wait. [Sub Pop]

-China Bialos



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