By Dave Chamberlain
MAY 22, 2000:
A little history: In 1994, Veruca Salt released its first single, "Seether," to rave reviews. The band, fronted by Nina Gordon and Louise Post, then released its debut LP, "American Thighs," on Chicago's own Minty Fresh records, which, upon much success (especially thanks to MTV), the band re-released on Geffen. It seems that the city never forgave Veruca Salt for that.
Five years and just one record later (1997's "Eight Arms to Hold You"), Gordon and Post put an end to their partnership (the rumor mill gives many reasons why; officially, they felt they were done creatively). Post opted to try and keep the name Veruca Salt going; Gordon chose a solo career.
So here we are in 2000, and both parties are pushing new records. Veruca Salt's "Resolver" (Velveteen/Beyond) is already on the streets; Gordon's debut solo record, "Tonight and the Rest of My Life" (Warner) comes out this summer. In the spirit of the force that made them stars, Raw Material presents a three-round cage match.
Round one (opening tracks):
Without fail, on any record meant for mass consumption, the first track is the one that counts most. It's that all-important first impression, and it has "single" written all over it. But on Veruca's "Resolver," we skip the opening track (a one-minute prelude called "The Same Person") and skip right to track two, "Born Entertainer." Heavy metalloid guitars rear their heads and roar, Post uses the word "fuck" in the second stanza, and yet -- just like on the band's previous record -- it never goes anywhere. Heavy riffs without hooks, metal without edge. The opening track on Gordon's record, "Now I Can Die," makes no attempt to be anything other than a rock pop song. No posturing or attitude, just a sweeping chorus, Gordon's ultra-girlie voice pulling off a number of hooks, catchy and hummable tune. WINNER: Gordon.
Round two (middle tracks):
"Resolver" shows more variety then you'd expect from a Veruca Salt through the middle tracks, especially the slower, softer songs like "Disconnected." But the loud metal songs just never find a punch -- the nemesis of the band -- and as I listen, it seems that Post's voice is dubbed so many times, it might not even be her we hear. Gordon, on the other hand, has a fuller, rounder voice (one might almost say it sounds trained). Like her record's first track, she is making pure pop music. As "Tonight... " moves along, orchestration continues, use of melody increases, the record moves away from straight guitar rock and integrates piano. Gordon is making music intended to sell records, and it shows. Winner: Gordon.
Round three (last track):
Here's where Gordon falters. Her final track, "The End of the World," is overly sappy, jam/anthemic pop rock, and a quality way to drift off to sleep. She should have dropped this one from the record. "Resolver"'s last track, "Hellraiser," might very well be the best on the record. Alternating between quiet and ultra-low end, "Hellraiser" will make you want to go back and listen to the rest of the record, just to make sure you were paying attention. Winner: Veruca Salt.
By winning two of the three rounds, today's belt goes to Gordon's "Tonight and the Rest of My Life," with some reservation. Veruca is not venturing into new territory, and hence may have the ultimate advantage in terms of record sales. Gordon is going from loud, heavy (sort of) rock to more direct pop music, and it may not fly with unfamiliar fans.