Veruca Salt’s Ghost Notes: Your Album of the Day
Artist: Veruca Salt
Album: Ghost Notes
Rating: 4 / 5
Veruca Salt is one of those bands that time could have forgotten – and for a while, it felt like that was their career’s destiny. They’re most remembered as the band that wrote the one hit “Seether,” but that was way back in 1994. They had a couple follow ups, most notably the However, their most recent album Ghost Notes is the first in nine years and a stiff dose of 90s grunge and punk nostalgia. With some slick production and tightly written songwriting, the album is a reminder of the tropes that make that decade pleasurable.
Veruca Salt isn’t the first 90s band to reunite this year with a successful album. Earlier in the year Sleater-Kinney, Faith No More, Blur, and Refused all came out with critically acclaimed albums. In almost every case, it’s rebooted their careers into 2015’s alternative scene as old warhorses. One thing for sure is that the 90’s sound is “in vogue.” Veruca Salt’s original quartet are back, and one strength of the album is the American Theigh’s (1994) lineup, comprised of dueling guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post, alongside drummer Jim Shapiro and bassist Steve Lack.
The rekindled alliance between Gordon and Post are what make this a success story from the outset. And with that alliance comes a return to what they did best in the 90s – make fun, poppy, and bittersweet tracks that wouldn’t have been out of place twenty or thirty years ago. However, this is 2015 and the big question is – do the songs sustain interest regardless of our nostalgia?
In short, yes. At least for the most part. “The Gospel According to Me” immediately dates the album to their early albums both in the heavy riffs, grungy production, and cheeky lyrics. It’s snarky title and simple but prophetic lyrics “It’s going to get loud / it’s going to get heavy” sets the tone for the rest album. This is especially true of the next track “Black and Blonde,” the heaviest track on the Ghost Notes. Aside from the decade long comparisons and shadow of bands like Pixies and the The Breeders, Veruca Salt also picks inspiration from other heavier 90s bands like Soundgarden and Mudhoney. It decidedly puts them as more metal than alternative. It works to Veruca Salt’s favor with the clean vocals and confessonal and snarky lyrics playing off thick riffs with a catchy buoyancy.
Some of the album gets bogged down in the sugary pop music that seems recycled and forgettable. The lead single “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl” seems an underwritten attempt at a pop hit, but it flashes by as quickly as it came. “Love You Less” falls into the “predictable” category, and “Triage” has a 3/4 loud-soft dynamic that lacks subtlety and a memorable hook. However, the songs that feels lacking only account for a minority of songs, with their longer songs allowing for more dynamics (e.g. “Empty Bottle” and “Prince of Wales”).
The latter song, “Prince of Wales,” is, to me – pardon the pun – the crowning achievement of the album. It starts with a low throbbing riff played beneath an excellent if abstract series of memories culminating with the “I remember that girl” refrain, which dissipates and restarts the low throbbing riff. It’s an excellently structured song, full of tension, repetition, and clear storytelling. On top of that, the dueling harmonies between Gordon and Post weave about seamlessly, and showcase Veruca Salt at their best.