VERUCA SALT - Ghost Notes

This site has existed for six years now, so I honestly can't remember if I have covered Veruca Salt before or not.  I know I've covered The Breeders, and I probably mentioned my love of female-fronted alt-rock from the 90's in that review.  I should be safe.  It's important because you need to know how much I love - LOVE - this band.  Rolling my eyes is an undignified rejoinder that I regretfully bank on when I overhear someone saying that an artist's music "got them through a hard time."  I'm not proud of it.  I shouldn't do that shit, but in my defense, they are usually praising, like, Coldplay.  Or...Coldplay.  I don't care for Coldplay.  I understand the sentiment, though.  In 1997, I spun American Thighs (I had yet to purchase Eight Arms) punctually while holed up in a hospital bed.

So yes, Veruca Salt helped me in a crunch.  That's true of almost every band I dig, so I must be a dick.  If you don't know the story, the core duo of Nina Gordon and Louise Post split in 1998.  The original line-up began fracturing a year prior.  I'll do the math for you; that's eighteen years ago.  Recently, the guys and gals of Veruca Salt decided to give it another go.  Nina is back!  My precious Louise released two records without her former best friend.  And they're not terrible, but they're not Veruca Salt.  Weezy concurs; she refers to those discs as "Veruca Starship."  Woah, two semi-colons in one review.  To paraphrase Eleanor of Aquitaine, I need to check myself before I wreck myself.  Moving on, bitches!

I haven't typed one word about Ghost Notes, I realize.  It's a trap that bounteous journalists fall into, and I'm not above the majority.  Do the volcano girls sound older and wiser?  Well, yeah.  I see that as both an opportune boon (*giggles*) and an ineludible downer.  Why down...er?  Nina and Louise are betrothed mothers.  They're all out of angst, not that they were ever the angriest band on the planet.  But I'm into angst!  Ghost Notes does rock, but collectively, it's happier and poppier than Veruca Salt's 90's output.  Don't misconstrue my meaning; (fuck, that's three) this is not a bad album.  I like it quite a bit.  It's just not as immediate as, again, the stuff from the 90's.

Ironic then that nostalgia is a running theme.  Several tunes deal directly with the break-up, others indirectly.  Clearly, my harem - I mean, the ladies still know how to concoct a mean hook.  The new compositions bob and weave like the old compositions, just in different places with slightly less distortion.  Slightly.  Opener "The Gospel According to Saint Me" is as mainstream as Ghost Notes gets, but at least the production is raw.  It doesn't sound 2015.  "Black and Blonde" is an archived neolith of a number that was dusted off for these sessions.  It's actually pretty fucking heavy, and it features those angelic harmonies that fans missed so much.  FACTOID: A discrepant version appears as a Japanese bonus track on Nina's 2000 solo LP.

My favorite cut, you implore?  Lead single "Laughing in the Sugar Bowl" hits me in the right spot.  It oozes 1994, and I'm not talking about that goddamn country song.  The chorus swells with melody, the lyrics are sassy and it ends with a headbanger riff that may have cracked my occipital bone.  "Empty Bottle" is another winner.  It thrives on a soft/loud dynamic (another 90's trick) that pervades Ghost Notes.  "Triage" has the meatiest chorus here.  I'm telling you, the guitars sound like meat.  That's good, though.  Vegans are advised to cup their ears and munch on celery to calm their nerves.  "Alternica" is the "Earthcrosser" of this set, a long, noisy way to wrap things up.  I approve.

Obviously (maybe it's not obvious), Ghost Notes is the worst of the "Nina" trilogy.  Yeah, it's pop-encrusted, but that's not the only discomfiture.  For starters, there are hardly any guitar solos.  I concede that Louise is not a thrash icon, but I've come to enjoy her freeform wailing (see "Get Back" or "Shutterbug").  All we hear is the neutered lead on "The Sound of Leaving," an otherwise powerful song.  "The Prince of Wales" has equally powerful lyrics, but musically, it's monotonous.  "Eyes on You" and "Love You Less" are instantly forgettable.  Ugh, I feel shitty shitting on this shit, but if it's shitty, should I not shit on it?  Wait, what?

Ghost Notes is worth placing in your shopping cart.  I wanted more vintage "buzz clip" epics, but overall, I'm cool with the reunited Veruca Salt.  Louise, if you're reading, will you marry me???

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