Veruca Salt: How Their Earlier Releases Teach Female Musicians to Give the Middle Finger to the Mainstream
BY TATIANA DONNELLY
Their name is utterly amusing, even a bit unusual (indeed taking witticism off of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and still, Veruca Salt is one of my favorite female rock assembles. But, it wasn’t just their name alone that made me do a double take.
When I found out about Veruca Salt’s two leading female singer-guitarists, it was pretty much all-ears from there. Veruca Salt’s feminine rock twist is like nothing else I’ve ever heard -- the two frontwomen, Nina Gordon and Louise Post, were a successful team churning out some of the best sounds of the 1990s, lacing beautiful harmonies into catchy, pop-grunge riffs, with a buzzing, dynamic energy that would make you want to mosh. Their sound was feminine enough to resonate with the punk girl, but masculine enough to gain appreciation from male metal devotees.
Blow It Out Your Ass It’s Veruca Salt, released in 1996, was the grunge-pop quartet's first EP that predicted the band’s raw pop-rock quality. Although their sound is one reminiscent to other '90s acts—the Breeders particularly—Veruca Salt really found an identity of their own combining quirky lyricism, heavy distorted riffs, and glossy vocals. The group landed itself within the popular circle of the buzzing-alternative sound that took over much of the '90s with the single "Seether" -- one of the catchiest songs about alter-ego rage. This single was also placed on their first studio album American Thighs (1994) whose title pays homage to AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long."
I am obsessed with the overall aesthetics to this record -- from the way it sounds, to the way it looks and its sheer ferocity and feminine edge, juxtaposing between grittiness and sweetness. In one instance American Thighs is sassy and igniting, which is highlighted through tracks like "All Hail Me" and "25," which really bring the 'rock-n-roll-ness' to what Rock music is -- sonically heavy, energetic and gritty. In the next moment, it’s sweeter side appears on tracks "Forsythia" and "Wolf" which are rooted in a Breeders-esque quality. The delicate closing "Sleeping Where I Want" is allusive of an art-rock, Warpaint track, with glossy guitar strings and spacey vocals. Admirably, frontwomen Post and Gordon play guitar—alongside drummer Jim Shapiro and bassist Steve Lack—as well as sing and write all the music.
Veruca Salt followed American Thighs with another great record Eight Arms to Hold You released in 1997. Their contribution as female singer/songwriters in the rock sphere is important to highlight -- this concept exists so few and far between within the music landscape now. Originality and creative honesty are areas of concern these days.
In addition, there is also a concern about the inherent conflict of musicians wanting to make music that is authentic to them, but being compelled in a different direction because of what "mainstream" defines as appealing to the masses. In the 90's, Veruca Salt grappled with this conflict, having been chastised for becoming grunge essentially put them at the center of "selling out" for caving into mainstream. It's inspiring to see not only males, but females picking up guitars, and defining the theory that looks, autotune, and choreography don't need to define your musicianship.
This is why American Thighs is such a refreshing listen -- Post and Gordon showed that traditional expectations do not necessarily define femininity, and that talent and intelligence are more empowering than anything else. What's missing in modern-day alternative, rock, pop, and so on is this unapologetic heaviness and pureness that bands like Veruca Salt harnessed in the 90's.
Lead Image Credit: verucasalt.com