Veruca Salt rides the MTV wave with American Thighs
Veruca Salt's American Thighs.
DGC RecordsBy Brian Hoffman
Awoman rises from beneath a heaping mound of old dolls. Cut to a scene of a band playing power chords on a sidewalk - behind, a nondescript building backdrop. Flash to more shots of burning toys. Intersperse with fisheye-lens shots of band members - black and white, muted red, washed out Technicolor. The sound issuing forth from the television flickering in the dark? A powerful, guitar driven construction - perhaps the Breeders in overdrive. Veruca Salt pounces upon the unsuspecting MTV viewer, a jaguar among kitten-like bands.
In the tradition of Weezer, Veruca Salt has crafted an amazing album that has so far escaped the notice of the general populace, despite the third track, "Seether," garnering large amounts of airtime (the video for "Seether" has broken into MTV's buzz clip rotations, much like Weezer's "Buddy Holly").
With Nina Gordon and Louise Post on guitar and vocals, Steve Lack on bass, and Jim Shapiro on drums and backing vocals, Veruca Salt weaves an often distorted, guitar-fueled musical fabric, yet manages to avoid breaking the melodic threads, balancing their album out with some superb mellower tracks.
Veruca Salt succeeds for much the same reason that Weezer succeeds: The vocalists harmonize well together and with their music, with the group taking as its mainstay simple chords and chord progressions. Yet, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts: Veruca Salt achieves a sound varying from the exhilaratingly bright to the broodingly dark over the length of their disc.
"Get Back" catapults their album American Thighs off to a great start, with noisy, distorted guitar, soloing in parts, a cool beat, and some harmonic, yet dazed and confused sounding lyrics: "I'm speeding up / I can't control my car / It doesn't matter who you think you might be or are / I misplaced it / I don't know where it's at / And I could find it but I'd never get it back."
Veruca Salt returns with a heavier, more aggressive counter to "Get Back" titled "All Hail Me": "So sorry lady / So sorry now / I killed your baby / I don't know how. / So sorry / So sorry now / So sorry mister but don't look now / I got your sister / I shot her down / So sorry / So sorry now / Cause I'm a bad man / I do what I can / All hail me." "All Hail Me" works with lots of low buzzing guitar, in a repetitive construction that might give the impression of an industrial influence along the way were it not for the vocals, which work very well on this track with the guitar, sung a bit lower than on "Get Back".
"Seether" just kicks. A quick and upbeat feel, simple chord progression, and some good work on a guitar solo, riveted together with harmonic vocals: "Seether is neither loose nor tight / Seether is neither black nor white / I try to keep her on a short leash / I try to calm her down / I try to ram her into the ground / Can't fight the Seether." The group sculpts "Seether" into an amped up version of a tune from the '50s or '60s, in much the same manner as Weezer's "Surf Wax America." Overall, "Seether" rocks as one of the best tracks on Veruca Salt's disc, coming in slightly ahead of "Forsythia." The "Seether" single, also containing "All Hail Me" has already made its way into stores.
In terms of sheer harmonics and feel, the flanged guitar, great rhythm, and amazing chorus of "Forsythia" make it nearly an equal to "Seether." It's a toss up between the two for the group's defining sound, although "Victrola," a quicker, harder sounding track more like "Seether" than "Forsythia," has also recently been capturing some airtime.
Veruca Salt slows it down on about half of the tracks, with "Forsythia" running the middle ground between the quicker set of "Get Back," "All Hail Me," "Seether," and "Victrola." "Number One Blind" also toes the line between the two sets, sporting some very harmonic vocals and a very cool chorus, with some good high guitar breaking to descend into low grungy chords.
In contrast, "Spiderman '79," reclines into a slow, grooving track, with lots of low, noisy guitar used almost as a canvas upon which the vocals are painted: "I dream in black and white / I've long forgot exactly who I am / Spiderman."
Like "Spiderman '79," "Wolf," "Celebrate You," "Fly," "Twinstar," "25," and "Sleeping Where I Want" show Veruca Salt's slower, mellower side, while remaining predominantly guitar driven. "Fly" shows up as an exception to this, using guitar only minimally in a mainly background sense, conjuring up images of raindrops falling in slow motion, swallowed, echoing ripples in a placid lake.
"25," the longest track on the disc, coming in at almost eight minutes, starts out low, dark, and metallic like "All Hail Me" but breaks off after a minute and stays quiet and brooding for a while. The song briefly peaks for a couple instances of distorted guitar, then rolls back and revels in silence for the last 20 seconds of the track, continuing into a vocal and quiet guitar construction, "Sleeping Where I Want," mixing into sounds of nature as the disc spins to a close.
"I thought I'd wait until I saw the penny drop." is a great lyric from "Get Back." Don't wait to get American Thighs - Veruca Salt kicks, and their album, along with Weezer's, (and, of course, some assorted Nine Inch Nails discs), deserves a place in everyone's music collection.
On a scale of zero to ten, with Ace of Base at zero (despite their winning some award which they don't deserve), and Primus at 10, Veruca Salt rates an 8.