PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Veruca Salt Crushes San Diego's Soda Bar

Photo: Tommy Cahill

Veruca Salt is back and ready to kick ass and it feels so good.

It was not just another Wednesday night at the Soda Bar, a dive with a tiny stage that rarely hosts a band with platinum album sales. Veruca Salt was launching their first tour with their original lineup since the 20th century, a cross-country trek that will take them to a number of more venerable venues. But San Diegans were thrilled to have a chance to help the band kick off the tour and word even had it that some hardcore fans had traveled many a mile to witness the tour opener.

The bar was packed with anticipation of a rock ‘n’ roll show that would conjure the glory days of the alt-rock revolution of the 1990s and alt-rock goddesses Louise Post and Nina Gordon did not disappoint. “Hatchets buried, axes exhumed,” the sirens had posted on their new Facebook page when they announced they were getting the band back together with original drummer Jim Shapiro (Gordon’s brother) and original bassist Steve Lack. But no mere nostalgia tour is this. The band has a rocking new album out this month in Ghost Notes and their long overdue second act has Veruca Salt poised to make some of the best musical mayhem of 2015.

The set leaned more toward the classic material from the group’s first two smash albums, but new songs were mixed in with solid results to indicate a promising future. “Shimmer Like a Girl” from the 1996 Blow It Out Your Ass It’s Veruca Salt EP released between the band’s first two albums was an early peak. The tune epitomizes the band’s vibe with the ladies’ sugary harmonies soaring over distorted guitar harmonics and a heavy beat. That contrast between sweet and dark is what made the band stand out from the pack of alt-rock pretenders that followed the original grunge wave in the ‘90s, and it will carry them again in 2015. There’s still a huge void in the modern music scene of ladies who truly rock, which makes the sight of Post and Gordon onstage together a most welcome vision.

The good times continued to roll with the infectious “Forsythia,” with smiles all around during the melodic number as the band continued to find their groove. “Shutterbug” was another gem, with Lack’s big bassline introducing the tune before the crashing guitars and clever twist into a poppy chorus that contrasts with the darker verses. “Come Clean Dark Thing” from the new album had heads bobbing over a mid-tempo groove as the ladies sang of being able to breathe the air again, perhaps a metaphor for their revived partnership.

The band was on a roll but took their sonic assault to a higher level with the incendiary “All Hail Me", the darkly anthemic put down of a rapist from the debut album that helped establish Veruca Salt as a genuine sonic force to be reckoned with. The energy in the packed bar soared as the band and crowd united in that special collective consciousness where the music plays the band and all are one. The band definitely had their mojo working now as Post’s endearing smile proved.

“Don’t Make Me Prove It” was another highlight with the sirens’ harmonies soaring over a deliciously crunchy groove. They don’t play much lead guitar, but Post and Gordon are both alt-rock rhythm guitar aces with their rocking chord progressions, hooky riffs and rich harmonic accents. 1994’s smash hit “Seether” kept the house rocking in a triumphant blast from MTV’s glory days and the band earned credit by not saving it for last, as so many bands do with their biggest hit. The group had certainly earned the chance to deliver some more new music now and delivered the goods with “The Museum of Broken Relationships". The song starts off slow and builds with skillful sonic layering until the chorus explodes with grungey goodness over one of the band’s classic choruses that mixes counterpoint melodies with infectious backing vocals. The new “Alternica” was another winner and served as a worthy set closer, an epic tune that built from a slow simmer to a rolling boil with a majestic chorus and then a heavy outro jam that blew away the assembled.

The triple encore was another triumph, starting with the downtempo yet heavy sound of “Earthcrosser.” Then the ladies cranked it back up to eleven on “I’m Taking Europe with Me", another gem from the underrated 1996 Blow It Out Your Ass EP that fans will have to dig out of their CD collections to hear again since it is apparently out of print and not available on Spotify. Hearing this song cranked out and crushed in 2015 was like a sublimely lucid dream come to life. Then “Volcano Girls” closed it out with a last blast of melodic pop-grunge goodness.

Some fans were no doubt thinking about heading up to LA to see the next show as this one exceeded all expectations and was probably the best show the Soda Bar will see all year. Veruca Salt is back and ready to kick ass and it feels so good. Women who can sing, play an instrument and rock out with the best of the guys remain such a rare commodity. The formula was special 20 years ago and remains an elusive sonic elixir here in 2015. The return of Veruca Salt can therefore only be seen as a glorious blessing from the music gods.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.