8/11/13

Salt - AUSCULTATE


Not to be confused with salt of the Veruca variety.  Let me tell you, this Swedish trio is a bitch to search for online.  Chances are, you haven't heard of Salt.  They had a minor hit in 1996 (a hard-driving number called "Bluster"), but aside from that solitary glint of success, they were virtual unknowns in America.  And it's easy to see why.  "Bluster" appeared on Auscultate, their major label debut.  1996 was an unfortunate year to be admitted to rock radio, especially when you consider that Salt specialized in streamlined post-grunge.  If they had emerged two years prior, they might have found a far-reaching fanbase.  Take Veruca Salt, for instance.  I'm not suggesting that they were overweening trendhoppers (personally, I adore VS), but they came around at just the right time.

Salt was consigned to obscurity from the get-go.  After releasing a kickass collocation of b-sides and rarities in 1997, they quietly disbanded.  Today, frontwoman Nina Ramsby is a bald pop songstress/activist in her country of origin.  I'm pretty sure that she's a lesbian.  Of course, it's completely irrelevant, but I've noticed that there were quite a few 90's bands spearheaded by bulldyke nightingales (Salt, Skunk Anansie, Smashing Pumpkins, et al.).  I'm grateful that I stumbled upon "Bluster" during a late-night YouTube adventure.  It's a shame that this record didn't catch on with...well, anyone.  It's fucking solid.  As with the bulk of "meat and potatoes" rock outfits from this glorious decade, it obliterates modern day fluff.

So what exactly does Salt sound like?  To my ears, they come off as a cross between the heavier end of Juliana Hatfield's sonic spectrum and Melissa Auf der Maur's solo material.  Barebones, yet well-executed.  Ramsby milks acres of mileage out of simple chord progressions and mid-range vocal melodies.  The trick?  Songcraft.  Y'know, the thing that most bands ignore entirely.  A discerning apperception of music theory is practically worthless without songwriting chops.  I don't know about you, but I like being able to remember a tune.  Fret not, headbangers!  Salt does not forsake rasping, sabulous guitars for sweet accessibility.  I believe that "tubular" is the word I'm looking for.

Okay, standout tracks.  "Honour Me" sums up Auscultate in four minutes flat.  It showcases Ramsby's mellifluous voice, dazzling harmonies and a crunchy rhythm section.  "Goddamn Carnival" will stay in your head for days.  "Lids" is a soothing ballad that builds to a circumrotary crescendo.  "Undressed," the kinetic album closer, is currently my favorite track.  It's hard to explain, so you really need to hear it yourself.  The promotional clip for "Bluster" is easy to find, and it rocks.  Again, you need to hear it yourself.  Do you enjoy straightforward hard rock with a 90's bent?  Fucking check out Salt.  For your information, the 1997 b-side compilation is entitled Delay Me Down and Make Me Wah Wah, give or take an exclamation point.

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