A Great Big Hug From Veruca Salt

Everything in music seems to be so wack lately. Courtney Love hit

Hollywood, No Doubt made ska the soft rock of '96, and I swear I read in

Time magazine that alternative music is now officially dead. These

and other anomalies seem to be indicative of the inevitable breakdown of

the pretense of a widespread alternative genre. Veruca Salt seem to have

picked up on the vibe, and usher in '97 with a sophomore album that defies

all alternatives and presents itself as what is sure to become a bone fide

classic rock album. The album, their second LP ( they released the EP

"Blow It Out Your Ass, Its Veruca Salt", in April 1996 ) is titled

Eight Arms To Hold You, a reference to the working title of the

Beatles film Help!

As a member of the 18-and-under age group I see this as an album to play

for your parents when they want to see "what the kids are listening to

these days." It's metal enough to make them nervous, while still sounding

familiar enough to make them feel young. And there's nothing wrong with

that.

The album opener, a screamer entitled "Straight", is a rerecorded version

of a b-side originally accompanying the "Number One Blind" single from

their first album, American Thighs. Personally, I prefer the rawer

sound of the BBC Studios recording, but the album version has its good

points too, and there's no doubt that the song rocks. The new vocals are

quite intriguing, somehow they manage to sound smooth and strained at the

same time. Louise Post, the lead guitarist, who shares lead vocal duties

with Nina Gordon also on guitar, has grown considerably as a guitarist.

After a dramatic pause in "Straight" she breaks into a short but memorable

solo, leading the vocals back in true rock fashion. Also notable is her

solo work on the prospective single "Volcano Girls"- almost Van Halen-ish

at times.

"Volcano Girls" is another rock-a-minute song. Following the

cymbal-vocal-guitar- second-guitar-rock invasion intro, the Salt craft

another winner. The lyrics seem to be similar in theme to their 1994 Top

Ten hit "Seether." The song talks about repressed anger taking over and

coming out, only this time the anger is tempered with acceptance,

"Volcano girls, we really can't be beat/ Wanna suffer, watch us blow/ Now

and then, we fail and we admit defeat" The vocals are effervescent

harmonies and the song is not without humour. During a cool bridge-type

interlude they play the guitar part from "Seether", singing over it a new

vocal line: "Told you 'bout the Seether before/ you know the one who's

neither or nor/ well, here's another clue if you please/ the Seether's

Louise . . . one two three raaaouwr!"

Again going against "alternative-lyric" norms, "Awesome" deals with the

success the band enjoyed after the release of their first album. A bass

driven tune, the lyrics express the bewilderment and wonder the band felt

after the tremendous success of their debut, which went gold in the United

States: "There's something in the unity/ What's coming over me?/ Oh no,

fuck humility,/ We're awesome, awesome,/ All our songs good, I know its

so/ Awesome, awesome,/ Everybody, I know, I know, its a fine place to be"

On paper, it might look a little arrogant, but it seems a far more natural

and less annoying reaction to success then the contrived, self-induced

dejection that most successful "alternative" acts cop these days. Veruca

Salt put out a fine debut album, had a successful tour and somehow figured

out that they don't suck. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Track six on the album is a poppy, hand clap-enhanced tribute to The Thin

White Duke called "With David Bowie". The song starts with a very nice

riff and uses phrases like "you betcha." To continue the parallels with

songs on the first album, "With David Bowie" is about being inspired by

listening to one's walkman, and its counterpart on the first album,

"Victrola" dealt with the attachment one might feel to one's stereo. Nina

and Louise seem to have consistent themes in their lyrics, an attribute

that works for them for the most part, as the words always come out

enthusiastic and sincerity. "Fallin' in love, my walkman and me,/ with

David Bowie./ You want me to sing,/ I can, I can./ You want me to play,/ I

can, I can./ Wanna be in a band?'/ I can, I'll never be anything more

than/ what's today what's today yeah!"

This inspirational thought is quickly followed by the undisputed ballad of

the album, "Benjamin", and another rocker, "Shutterbug." Veruca Salt seem

to be much more familiar with the studio this time round. They employ,

along with producer Bob Rock (Metallica) a multitude of guitar and vocal

tricks. The dubbed and effect laden guitars account for the metal sound of

some of the songs and the more developed sound of others. This aspect,

paired with the lilty vocals produces an effective combination.

The album closes with an interesting pair of songs, "Venus Man Trap" and

"Earthcrosser". "Venus Man Trap" is a grinding love song of sorts, with

the line "Waiting for an opportunity to strike I have been your biggest

fan./ What a tour, a little blow to cure your fright,/ That's what it

takes to trap a man."

The backup vocals on this track make it one of the most unusual and

notable songs on the album. Rhythmically placed "woohoos", they add a

punchy harmony to the song. "Earthcrosser" begins quietly with a slide

guitar riff and whisper-sung vocals: "Am I clean? sleep . . ./ Feel like

men, feel like boys,/ I think I'm peeling . . ./ And it rings in my ears,/

From playing to loud./ I hear the ocean, I hear the crowd/ Disconnected, I

am unattached,/ Unmade bed makes me feel like a failure."

The song then crashes down with waves of sound, creating an epic of soft

and loud. I think this song is about the exhaustion and constant exertion

required by touring. My favourite song on the album, it expresses its

sentiment without bitterness. The dynamics of the song mirror the cycle of

exhaustion and elation that comes with playing live. When the song swells

it envelops everything.

Veruca Salt have made a fairly all-encompassing second album. It stretches

the boundaries of rock, past alternative and metal and pop, into a new but

old category- classic. And there's nothing wrong with that.