If you came of age in the 90's and feel the musical explosion early on in the decade is the soundtrack of your life, then Ghost Notes (the first album released by Veruca Salt with its original lineup since 1997) is as much your reunion as it is theirs.
Hailing from Chicago, Veruca Salt formed in 1993 and burst on the global scene a year later with their debut album American Thighs. With hits like "Seether" and "All Hail Me" Veruca Salt was on the fast track to Alternative Rock stardom. Co-founders and song writers Louise Post and Nina Gordon displayed musical chops, catchy rock songs, huge hooks, soul exposing lyrics and beautiful harmonies, nothing could stop them! Three years later the release of their second LP, Eight Arms To Hold You was a continuation of the sound and style made famous with their debut. With growing success, respect and popularity, Veruca Salt were posied to break it huge, so now nothing could really stop them, right? Well...
The band essesntially split up (mainly due to in fighting between Post and Gordon) soon after the release (and tour) of Eight Arms To Hold You. With Gordon, drummer Jim Shapiro and bassist Steve Lack exiting the group, Louise Post (the only original member) was left to muddle on with a few different incarnations of the band. Though she found some success, Veruca Salt was never the same again. Until now...
Ghost Notes, with all four original members in tow, is proof that yes you can go home again and that reunions can be as good or dare I say better than the original. This album is brimming with what makes Veruca Salt great and even underrated. The hooks are back, the infectious harmonies between Post and Gordon are back, the driving and grooving rhythm section of Shapiro and Lack are back...Veruca Salt is back!
The fuzzy guitar on the straight up rocker, "The Gospel According to Saint Me" kicks this record off in classic verse-chorus-verse style and it's just the start of things to come. Not to be outdone, the second track "Black and Blonde" plods along with heavy riffs, John Bonham-esque drumming and a message that could be true for either singer (even though Gordon wrote it as a critique of Post many years ago) stating "I'm the greatest fucking thing that ever happened to you".
One of the strengths that Veruca Salt has always possessed is the ability to slowly build a song from a whisper to a scream and back again. This is eveident on "Prince of Whales" with its driving, methodical bass line permeating throughout the track as regret, apology and remembering past demons are dealt with head on. Perhaps an even better example of this comes from "Empty Bottle", a slow and anxious build up to a frenzied, vicious, beautiful chorus and a gentle return to a hushed tone allowing you to exhale once again.
Although Ghost Notes does manage to sound new, there are elements which could've come directly from the 90's alternative rock playbook such as "Come Clean Dark Thing" and "I'm Telling You Now". Both songs accenuate the beauty and delicate balance of harmony that Post and Gordon seem to write in their sleep. There's also a confession of sorts which fits perfectly with the running theme of this record, "It got bitter and I didn't want to taste it. I lost your number and I never replaced it. I couldn't face it then so I'm telling you now".
With Veruca Salt the music and vocal harmony is what comes across first, at least that's how I see it. Sometimes though they will smack you in the mouth with biting, emotional lyrics as well. Such is the case with "Triage", a slow and deliberate song with a heavy riff and lyrical honesty that spews "And I can't believe that you were together. I don't believe you let her inside. I can't believe she wrote me that letter. Why did you bother to leave me alive?"
On "The Museum of Broken Relationships" the band is perhaps living in Ghost Notes finest moment. Don't get me wrong, there's a ton to like about this release but this song in particular embodies what Veruca Salt was and thankfully still is; a sing-a-long, big groove, great build up to an explosive chorus, full of harmony and penetrating lyrics type of rock band! So what if the reunion took 18 years, it was certainly worth the wait!