Veruca Salt 'Gets The Band Back Together' And Releases "Ghost Notes", But Should You Care?
It's sad that we've finally reached a time where new music is free and "album reviews" are rendered obsolete because I know before I even type them that my words are wasted on the wall and the few discerning bad-asses who read my shit and keep me from seeing too many zeroes in my web stats.
On that depressing note, it's time to review the new Veruca Salt album, Ghost Notes.
Veruca Salt, as any good Chicagoan "of a certain age" knows, was a band that went from complete obscurity to local Nirvana-status in about three seconds. One minute Ralph Covert and the Bad Examples were smiling their asses off, singing "Not Dead Yet", and the next a brooding and flannel-drenched Veruca Salt were lining folks around the block as "Seether" blasted out of every car radio and dorm room in town.
To say that their rise to fame was meteoric would be the understatement of the millennium. As a semi-interested by-stander taking special satisfaction from watching all the young bands with three whole gigs under their belts cashing seven-figure major label advance checks, I regarded Veruca Salt as a monster of the industry's own creation that would soon crash & burn.
It did, of course. Predictably, the band got caught up in their own whirlwind and went from recording stone-cold alterna-future classics in filthy Chicago shit holes with the drummer from Shrimp Boat to grumbling on the beach in Hawaii while Bob Rock (the guy who produced Metallica's Black Album, not to mention Tal Bachman's "She's So High") twiddled their knobs.
The resulting album, Eight Arms To Hold You, was a complete radio-ready sell-out attempt and it flopped. Hard. Oh, sure it made it all the way to #55 on the Billboard charts, whereas American Thighs had peaked at #69, but nobody was celebrating.
And then Nina Gordon quit the band.
Anyone wondering where my allegiance lied need only ask the revolving door of ex-girlfriends who I have introduced to "Tonight And For The Rest Of My Life" over the years. There are few songs that have helped me bond with the fairer sex over the years so, for that, Nina has my eternal thanks.
As for Veruca Salt post Nina Gordon, it was a sad and mostly unrecognizable journey down the "Don't you know who we used to be?" wormhole.
Meanwhile, Nina Gordon's solo career floundered from indifference and neglect on the part of both the artist and the label. I took one look at the cover of Nina Gordon looking uncomfortable on the cover of her own album Bleeding Heart Graffiti and, from my broken-down van down by the river, I felt pity for someone other than myself.
Despite the deep and bitter rift between Nina and Louise, musically speaking, what other options did either of them have at this stage in the game? The fact that they would one day bury the hatchet and reunite has always been a foregone conclusion to anyone who has lived through two Pink Floyd reunions, but that they managed to also reunite with original rhythm section Jim Shapiro (drums) and Steve Lack (bass) adds a huge feather in the cap of what could have easily been one of those half-assed cash-in reunions that come and go like Chipotle burrito farts in a thrift store.
I mean, Lack and Shapiro are the two guys caught between the once-warring factions of Post vs. Gordon and sometimes those are the people who want nothing to do with even the faintest whiff of bad history repeating, so when I discovered they were "in", I admit thinking that this thing might have les.
Oh, but when they teamed with original producer Brad Wood, made all the more convenient by the fact that he'd long ago pull up stakes and moved his operation to sunny Los Angeles, this reunion now had my full attention.
See, though I still find Exile In Guyville a complete sonic mess, his sterling production many moons later on, of all things, a Bangles album that all of ten people heard (2003's Doll Revolution) forced me to reevaluate my opinion of Wood as a producer. From that point on, seeing his name on the back of an album has led me to part with a fair amount of money, quite agreeably so, and actually pay attention to artists like mewithoutYou, Ben Lee and Sarah Bettens, to name just a few.
While many a once-thriving L.A. record producer goes into the bed-and-breakfast biz, Wood has found a way to keep the lights on in his own "Value Village" recording studio afloat without resorting to desperation tactics. I have no idea for how much longer he'll be able to hold the wolves at bay, but I am hopeful the success of this album will buy him more time. It may not, though.
For all of the release-week hype surrounding Ghost Notes, the sad truth is that this whole excursion - from bridges being mended and first rehearsals to shipping the masters off to the pressing plant- may amount to nothing more than a labor of love for all involved because, let's face it, the music industry is no longer equipped to dress itself, much less nurture a band like Veruca Salt.
Even so, this is an essential record executed flawlessly by a band that cares about the process, and each other, aided by the best-damn producer they could have possibly enlisted to "twiddle their knobs".
Album of the year?
Which makes it all the sadder that the industry cares not for albums such as these because the end result is that an entire generation of kids is gonna miss out on playing footsie 'neath the booth at the malt shop while songs like "Laughing In The Sugar Bowl" and "Empty Bottle" define their entire existence.
But that doesn't mean that you have to. And, yes, that's my foot.
Superior St. Rehearsal Facility
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