Onetime Indie Rocker, Nina Gordon, Takes Chance On Lush, Heartfelt Pop

Ex–Veruca Salt singer/songwriter makes risky — and revelatory — musical move.

(Editor's Note: The "Sunday Morning" essay is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of SonicNet Inc. or its affiliated companies.)

Editorial Director Michael Goldberg writes:

One of the best albums I've heard this year won't even be released until sometime in 2000.

I'm talking about the debut solo LP from former Veruca Salt guitarist and singer/songwriter Nina Gordon.

I've been listening to the disc, Tonight and the Rest of My Life, since July. It's a beautiful pop CD, and at first that really threw me for a loop.

I was expecting a rock album from Gordon.

Veruca Salt were an indie band out of Chicago whose awesome debut, American Thighs, was produced by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Ben Lee). Their big hit was "Seether" (RealAudio excerpt), which Gordon wrote.

When I hung out with the band back in '95, shortly after "Seether" had put them on the map, Gordon impressed me as a real rocker. She played a Gibson SG guitar and played Keith Richards to Louise Post's Mick Jagger.

I dug Gordon's and Post's vocals, but for some reason I never thought of Gordon as a real singer. She was a rocker who sang. But with Tonight and the Rest of My Life, she reveals herself to be a noteworthy vocalist, who can convincingly deliver big pop songs along with a few rockers ("Black and Blonde") that are reminiscent of her contributions to American Thighs.

The new record reminds me of the best work by the Bangles and the Go-Go's, "girl groups" that delivered a female take on mid-'60s Beatles-esque pop. But Gordon's album is more lush. Bob Rock, known for his work with Metallica and Aerosmith, produced the disc (he also produced Veruca Salt's second — and underrated — album, Eight Arms to Hold You.)

Songs such as "Hold On to Me" are intimate love ballads ("When we're apart I still feel together/ I still believe in a thing called forever/ But we're drifting apart it's true/ And it's breaking my heart in two") that are loaded with hooks.

On the page, those lyrics may look clichéd, but like a paramour delivering the words "I love you," Gordon makes them sound as if they're being voiced for the first time.

She wrote the songs shortly after breaking up with both a boyfriend of four years and her best friend, Louise Post, with whom she had formed Veruca Salt in 1991. "I was totally dealing with leaving the band when I was writing this album," Gordon told SonicNet Senior Writer Gil Kaufman earlier this year.

"I was feeling a lot at that time. I had a lot of feelings," she continued. "And I had to somehow deal with them. I know it's a cliché, but you take those feelings and do something productive with them, although you don't realize ... that you're doing something productive — you're just reaching for something that might console you" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Much of the album is about dealing with the end of a relationship. "It feels like a movie," she sings, " 'cause I've done something heavy and now I'm all alone and you know I like it ... / What's done is done/ I can't blame anyone but me."

Some may look at Gordon's pop move as a betrayal of her alternative credentials. I don't see it that way. The Beatles were, at one time, both the biggest band in the world and one of the most creative. They made music that both mattered and reached an audience. Gordon has grown up, and so has her music. The safe thing to do would have been to make a raw, indie album. With Tonight and the Rest of My Life she takes chances, and the result is something to behold.

The LP closes with the moody rocker "Hate Your Way," a kind of hate song to a former lover. It's also a highlight of the album. "I hate your way/ I don't care what you say/ I hate your way/ I don't care/ And I'm only half there/ So I don't care ... / They can cut me down 'til I'm the talk of the town/ I'm a fool for you/ Had to sell my soul/ But you were so rock 'n' roll/ I'm a fool for you ... / I hate your way/ A little more every day/ I hate your way/ A little more/ And I could leave but what for/ A little more."