December 23, 2015 Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes (Album Review)
Veruca Salt is best known as the Alt Rock female-fronted force behind such ’90s hits as “Seether” and “Volcano Girls.” The band was started in 1993 by co-founders Louise Post (guitar/vocals) and Nina Gordon (guitar/vocals) when they were introduced by a mutual friend and began playing music together. After about a year, the two women were joined by Gordon’s brother Jim Shapiro (drums) and Steve Lack (bass). After playing some shows together, they drew the attention of Jim Powers of Minty Fresh Records and signed to the label soon after, releasing their first single “All Hail Me/ Seether.” The song was a hit and in 1994, they released their debut album, American Thighs, which went on to achieve Gold status. The next major success for the band would come from their next album in 1997, Eight Arms To Hold You, which featured lead single “Volcano Girls.” The single appeared on the soundtrack for the teen Dark Comedy Jawbreaker (1999) starring Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and Julie Benz.
Shorty after the release of Eight Arms To Hold You, things began to change for the ’90s Alt sensations. Gordon left the band to pursue a solo career, and under suspected conflict from within, followed by Shapiro and then Lack, leaving only Post to carry the torch. After several years and lineup changes later, the band went on “official hiatus” in 2012. Thankfully for fans everywhere, in March 2013, the band announced via Facebook that the original line up would be reuniting. In July 2015, Veruca Salt’s original line up released their first album together since Eight Arms To Hold You, titled Ghost Notes.
Despite not having played as a collective since 1996, Veruca Salt fall easily back into their old groove on Ghost Notes. The leisurely groove of opening track “The Gospel According To Saint Me” brings the nostalgia of ’90s Alt Rock flooding right in. Its mellow soul and casual pace make it easy to follow, and with the heavy, free-flowing bass, it is a great introduction to the fusion between the new and old Veruca Salt. “Black and Blonde” follows up with a hefty rhythm and blunt, cutting lyrics. It recalls the soul of ’90s Alternative with its heavy percussion, mid-tempo beats and echoic choruses. “Eyes On You” is soundtrack material. Just as “Volcano Girls” would go on to appear on the Jawbreaker soundtrack, “Eyes On You” feels like it belongs in a coming-of-age film or unrequited love story with its perky peaks and emotive lyrics.
“The Sound Of Leaving” is a slow and somber track that breaks up the album with its evocative and quieted vocal dynamics and hefty percussion. This is quickly beat out by the rolling drums and uptempo stringwork of “Love You Less.” There is something familiar in this track in the way the rhythm and heart does vaguely ring in the muted spirit of their older material. Lead single “Laughing In The Sugar Bowl” brings back the Veruca Salt we know and love. With infectious high-energy, pounding drums, Post and Gordon’s guitars leading the way, and seemingly effortless the melding of their voices, it creates a nostalgic aural honey that is hard not to soak in. This is the band so many ’90s kids fell in love with, and they remind us what is possible when you choose to bury the hatchet somewhere other than each other’s backs.
Fusing their years of experience and trademark sound proved a fairly easy task for theses Alt rockers as songs like “Come Clean, Dark Thing,” “Triage,” and “Lost To Me” blend their signature harmonies with heavy-handed strumming, and elements of Punk influence to reinvigorate old fans and pique the interest of new ones. What they have succeed in the most is resurfacing a style and avenue of the Alt genre not seen since their heyday to carve out their own niche in today’s Heavy Metal and uber Hard Rock-laden scene. Closing on a more serious note with “Alternica,” the band gives listeners a six minute opus thick with heart and soul with a dash of heartbreak for impact. It is effect and intensity paired with the hauntingly echoic vocal outro and instrumental grandeur is reminiscent of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” before it fades into its final chord and then nothingness.
Veruca Salt has re-emerged with an enchanting and engaging collection of songs rife with melodies that delight the senses, harmonies long-missed from days gone by, and a simple yet fascinating musicianship that is the real star of this album. The return of Nina Gordon seems to have sparked something brilliant within these rockers, and as a reunited front, Veruca Salt has given fans and newcomers alike a chance to (re)discover what Veruca Salt is all about, and it is both beautiful and bold. The return to something simple and energetic that is genuine Rock-n-Roll at heart makes Ghost Notes an invigorating journey, even at its more solemn moments, if only for ingenuity alone. CrypticRock gives Ghost Notes 4 out of 5 stars.