Veruca Salt

Heavy Metal Minus The Testosterone

Okay, I realize some people might get a bit miffed by my putting these bands together just because they're "chick bands". Actually, they have much more in common than that - though they fall by default into the punk/alternative category, they're closer in style to that archaic form known as heavy metal. You know, loud, distorted, thudding guitars and screeching bellows, very agressive and a bit slower in pace than most punk. Boys have played it for eons with varying degrees of dimwitted stupidity, so it's about time that girls kicked their way into the club. At least these gals provide your daily dose of chunky power-chording without being Satan-worshippingly sexist about it.

Hole: Pretty On The Inside (1991) *

Ugh. Not exactly accurate, Courtney - your songs are ugly on the inside, too. Abrasive white noise in a sub-Germs/Sonic Youth vein, only without any reason like good melodies or art to pay attention. She means to assualt and shock, as titles like "Teenage Whore" and "Garbageman" make plain, but the only honest response I have is boredom. All the songs sound the same, and all are uniformly godawful. If a cat screetching in heat pounding on a hot tin roof sounds appealing to listen to, by all means go ahead. I only listen to the Stooges a good .05% of the time myself (when I do, they sound great-but that's another review). At this point, allegations that she was just riding on her hubby's coattails were dead accurate (yes, I realize that there are three other members of Hole, but who cares?!?). I remember picking this CD out for airplay at the student radio station I DJ'ed at way back in the early '90s. I got halfway through the first song and shut it off, telling the audience "Okay, folks, that song sucked, but I'll find a good one off this CD in a jiff." I played about 20-30 seconds of every cut off the CD and kept reaching for the 'next track' button in frantic horror. Didn't find a single listenable one.

Reader Comments

Rich Bunnell, taosterman@yahoo.com

I personally couldn't care less about Hole's music, but if I'm not mistaken Courtney Love married Kurt Cobain in 1992, thus making the statement that she was "riding in on her hubby's coattails" with the band's 1991 debut album inaccurate. I could be wrong, though-- and that's certainly happened before.

Hole: Live Through This (1994) ***1/2

This one got overrated when it came out because we all felt sorry for her over Kurt's killing himself. No, it's certainly not the best album that came out in 1994 (check out Sloan's Twice Removed or Velvet Crush's Teenage Symphonies To God). However, it is a huge improvement over the debut. Courtney Love has somehow learned how to write real songs, and if her melodies are somewhat basic, at least she has them this time around. She's a desperately fucked-up character, alright, as the lyrics make clear (not to mention her extra-musical exploits in the tabloid sheets), but the pain and rage she communicates seems actually compelling, if unfocused. "Doll Parts" is a tremendous song - no wonder she covers "Unsatisfied" in concert: "Someday you will ache like I ache" may be the mantra of the grunge generation, and is certainly more universal than anything her husband wrote. The creepy, psychotic "Jennifer's Body" possesses a catchy, almost bouncy (?) chorus about killing people. "In Olympia...We look the same/fuck the same" - yeah, she lays it on the line, doesn't she, not exactly one to beat around the bush. Whatever "Asking For It"'s message about rape - I mean, I know she's against it (duh!), but what is she trying to say besides that? - it's an unsettling chorus. I remember the lyrics (which I can understand most of the time) and the choruses, but as I said the melodies are pretty basic, and there ain't much dynamic variety found amidst the (admittedly effective) guitar roar. Still, it's good to purge your inner psychotic schizo soul with, and bang your head with, too.

Update: It has come to my attention that Courtney Love may not have written the songs she is credited with. It seems that rumors are flying that her late husband helped her greatly with the songs on Live Through This, and I believe one band member accidently let the truth slip out in public. These rumors may or not be true, but I give them a lot of creedence due to the inexplicable leap in quality between the first and second albums, and Love's refusal to deliver a third album in timely fashion - is she afraid the emperor's clothes will fall off? Also, Cobain's songwriting fingerprints are all over the place; structurally and melodically, most of this material sounds like Nirvana outtakes. It doesn't matter in the end whether Love's a fake (she's working in a long tradition), but it'd be nice to clear up these matters.

P.S. And don't accuse me (or anyone else) of sexism for bringing this matter up. Nobody claims that Liz Phair or P.J. Harvey don't write their own songs; with Love, however, there are reasonable doubts as to authorship.

Hole: Celebrity Skin (1998)

I can't quite make up my mind whether this one's any better than the last one; it's more pop-oriented and melodic (slightly). The lyrics are obnoxious whining about how hard it is to be a Hollywood star - in the words of Minor Threat, "Boo fuckin' hoo." I'd like to ignore Ms. Love's personality and just concentrate on the music, but vocal music doesn't work that way - the personal feelings a singer's voice evokes color the music quite a bit. In other words, she's an asshole leading a good rock'n'roll band - but so was Mick Jagger, so was Dylan, so was Chuck D...

L7: Smell The Magic (1991) **1/2

It's helpful to note that Spinal Tap's album was called Smell The Glove. Not that L7 are really that dumb and cliched, mind you, but....they are dumb and cliched. They revel in all the bad-boys-in-leather-on-Harleys cliches that ceased to be rebellious or interesting the day Motorhead perfected them. That said, it's funny to listen to girls act dumb and macho, oblivious to the inappropriateness of masculine sexism like "you and me 'til the wheels fall off!", sung without a note of irony. There's one killer song, though - "Shove", which kicks off the album. Drunken bums that pinch your ass, neighbors who complain you jam too loud, parents who think you're nowhere, it's a month since you been laid - is that rock'n'roll or what? Too bad they don't have any numbers as "Fast and Frightening" (an actual title) as that one. Oh well, at least the sound is thickly satisfying, and the lyrics are funny, especially "Deathwish", which I bet a bunch of dummies in their audience take as an anthem (it's about driving too fast, drinking too much, etc., and it's nominally against those things, I guess). Most of the time they sound like a slightly louder Joan Jett without songs or a melodic sense, which isn't quite as bad as it sounds, but not good by any means.

Veruca Salt: American Thighs (1995) ***

This makes history as perhaps the first child abuse concept album. The songs aren't interrelated, but they keep returning to several key themes and alluding to certain childhood incidents. "I'm a bad man/I do what I can" they sing from the point of view of a man who has a sister hostage, and it sends chills up your spine. If you don't change the specific gender references and have it sung by a man, "Seether" ends up as a song from the point of view of a rapist: "Hold her down/Boiling water/Such a lovely daughter". Pretty creepy stuff, to say the least. To bad that most of the record sounds as defeated as the lyrics; in order to get to chewy little riff-songs like "Victrola" and "Seether", you have to wade through a bunch of tortured slow numbers that drag and drag, eventually dragging you down with them to the depths of despair. Their sound is instantly appealing, though - little-girl voices contrasting with thick guitars bolsters both sides of the coin. Not exactly my idea of a good time, though.

Veruca Salt: Eight Arms To Hold You (1997) ***1/2

A huge improvement, it sounds like they got out of therapy and started livin' a little. Where on the earlier album the production sounded fuzzy in order to be "authentic" by the dictates of the snobbish "alternative" scene, here they get the guitar tone right: hard-hitting and crunchy. Does it tell you anything that they used Bob Rock, the producer for AC/DC? Yeah, this is ROCK with all caps, baby. Hearteningly enough, not only do they rock harder, they also pop catchier, too - you can hum some of these humdingers all day. In fact, this is an improvement on all fronts - writing, production, playing, arranging. Their voices are still cute and sexy, but there's nothing cute about the way they play them guitars. Plus the rockers-to-ballads ratio has gone up in the rockers' favor, a damn good thing. My faves are the single "Volcano Girls" with a giggly Beatles alusion that I keep punchin' rewind on whenever it gets to that part of the song; "The Morning Sad" a will-you-still-love-me-tomorrow? themed query for modern couples; "Awesome" with super-cute squeals that say goodbye to 25; and the new-wavey one about falling in love "With David Bowie" on your walkman. The only problem is that they still have those ballads, which I'm not in enough personal agony to sit through (actually the ballads do put me in personal agony, not the intent I don't guess).

Reader Comments


You didn't review any more of L7s albums, But that doesn't matter because they aren't that good.

You're review of Hole was just like their new song "Awful"! "Live through This" is an amazing album, and there are plenty of dynamics. This is the most honest album ever.

Veruca Salts ballads are good if you actually LISTEN to them

I cannot believe the comments on here. Are you a reviewer or a judge? I cant tell. I think that in your listening you missed a few things

1.The Songs
2.The Meanings
3.The Damn Songs

stop riding on the coat tails of other so called reviewers and listen to the music for once

don't let other peoples ideas become your own

Marie-Paule Lemoine, degagnem@mts.net

Yeah Veruca salt's eight arms to hold u is the BEST chick album/band probobly anyone has ever heard!! So back off whoever says otherwise and for hole's live through this well best grunge/raging album for the mid 90's.

Post Your Comments

Say goodbye to this page