Two Arms To Hold You

When Chicago's Veruca Salt released their debut album, American

Thighs, in 1994, detractors dismissed co-founders Nina Gordon and

Louise Post as jumping on the Breeders bandwagon, mixing female vocal

harmonies over thick basslines and infectious hooks. But three years

later, upon the release of their next full-length album, the more

elaborately produced Eight Arms To Hold You, it seemed as if

Gordon and Post were modeling themselves more on the Wilson sisters of

Heart, circa 1985, than on the Deal sisters, circa 1997. Famed hard-rock

producer Bob Rock tried to lead Veruca Salt out of the college bars and

into the hockey arenas, but it just didn't happen. Now, after two gold

albums together and a less-than-amicable split, Post continues to record

under the name Veruca Salt, while Gordon has gone the solo route.

Whereas Post's recently released Resolver doesn't try to hide the

vitriol for her former bandmate and friend, Gordon has opted for the

high road on her solo debut, Tonight and the Rest of My Life,

which would rather gravitate more toward accessible, controversy-free

pop balladry. And though the refrain of "Hate Your Way," ("Had to sell

my soul/ But you were so rock and roll") would seem to refer to Post,

the failed relationship really isn't the CD's primary concern, at least

not explicitly. Apparently no longer interested in being Kim Deal or Ann

Wilson, Gordon's self-absorbed set seems to suggest her focus now is on

being Natalie Imbruglia.

The overwhelming majority of the album's 13 songs are midtempo ballads,

all produced in big, glossy style by the aforementioned Rock, and none

terribly innovative or memorable. (If the title track [

href="http://media.addict.com/music/Gordon,_Nina/Tonight_And_The_Rest_Of

_My_Life.ram">RealAudio excerpt] sounds at all familiar, then

perhaps you, too, have heard Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery,"

which it resembles enough to probably invite a lawsuit.) Highlighted by

slide guitar, the regretful "Too Slow to Ride" ("When the sun went dead

... I finally figured out what I should have said") is a bit more

laid-back than the overcooked "2003" ("I want to meet in 2003/ I want

to see what the future can bring to me") or the arch "Now I Can Die"

("He likes to try on my clothes/ But not my underwear"), but ultimately

these songs run together, one barely distinguishable from another.

Only "Badway" ("No pain, no gain/ There's a million voices in my brain

... I'm like a self-made hand grenade/ But I can't pull the pin") hints

at the feistiness of "Seether," the song that put Veruca Salt on the

map. The song rocks without being bombastic, which is more than can be

said of most of the other entries here. The lack of variety in the

approach to the songwriting and production gives the album a sort of

monochromatic feel, as if the whole thing were just one long, midtempo

torch song. Yes, Gordon's voice is a confident and engaging one, but,

tellingly, she sounds more natural around looser-fitting material, such

as "Badway," than around ballads such as "Got Me Down." It's hard to

fault Gordon for trying to stretch herself musically, but the strain

does frequently show on this fair but ultimately disappointing

Night.