Veruca Salt ”Eight Arms to Hold You” CD-Review by Matthew Dearborn
Back in 1997, the Seattle-based alternative rock band Veruca Salt released their second studio album, Eight Arms to Hold You. The thing is, on February 11, this album turned twenty years old, but my ears almost don’t want to believe that fact because it still sounds like new.
Let me rephrase that: Eight Arms sounds a lot more polished and refined than their 1994 debut album, American Thighs. That album was meant to sound really thin and fuzzy as VS emerged into the grunge scene. Eight Arms, on the other hand, represents a change in their sound from grunge to alternative rock, and the difference is very apparent.
Until 2015, this album was Veruca Salt’s last effort with both Nina Gordon and Louise Post before the band split up. (In 2015, Veruca Salt reformed with their original lineup and released Ghost Notes, which is an excellent reunion album.) Gordon and Post complement each other so well with their vocal styles, yet at the same time, they provide contrast since Gordon contributes to Veruca Salt’s “pop” sound, and Post contributes to their “rock” sound.
The album features 14 tracks, and is just over 50 minutes in length.
Track 1: Straight
As soon as the album begins, you’re treated to a surge of feedback, followed by a pounding drum beat. Louise is the one belting out the lyrics in this song, and when she sings, “STAY STRAIGHT FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEE!” you can tell that this one is meant to be a rocker. Her guitar solo, while very short, is also rather sweet (and abrasive in a good way), and it makes for a pretty good opening track.
Track 2: Volcano Girls
This is arguably the band’s most popular song, right up there with Seether from American Thighs. It’s a very catchy tune penned by Nina Gordon, and it comes complete with another guitar solo by Louise Post. I especially like the part where it repeats, “Go, I don’t wanna go” several times, and even I can’t help but sing to it. After that part is (believe it or not), a direct homage to Seether, using the same guitar lick. In my opinion, this is Veruca Salt’s magnum opus, the best song in their entire discography.
(Fun fact: the song “Volcano Girls” was featured in the 1999 movie Jawbreaker.)
Track 3: Don’t Make Me Prove It
“Zero one, two, three, four days without you.” Yup, those are the opening lyrics to the third track on the album, and it’s actually quite a badass song. The tone reminds me of The Smashing Pumpkins for some reason. It’s short, but it’s a great song, especially during the chorus when Post belts out, “Words won’t do, words won’t do it!”
Track 4: Awesome
This is an upbeat pop song written by Gordon. I hope this isn’t too far-fetched, but I see it as an ode to Gordon’s and Post’s friendship. Even though I do really like the melody, I see it as one of the weaker songs on the album, but it’s still pretty good and worth a listen.
Track 5: One Last Time
This is my 2nd favorite song on the album, after Volcano Girls. This is the first of the album’s three ballads (the others being Benjamin and Loneliness is Worse), and it has a very good melody at the beginning. You can tell it was written by Post, especially during the chorus when she sings, “I see you and WANT YOU TO TRYYYYY, TO LOVE ME LIKE A MONSTERRRRR! ONE! LAST! TIME!” Her guitar solos are really melodic during this song, and the ending reminds me of “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” for some very weird reason. Anyway, it’s my 2nd favorite song on the album, so that should say a lot about its quality.
Track 6: With David Bowie
For some reason, I think this song is about Nina Gordon having a crush on David Bowie, so that probably explains the title of the song. Believe it or not, it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album, mainly due to the catchy and memorable melody. I especially like the part where Gordon and Post sing, “You wanna be in a band, I can / I’ll never be anything more than I was today, than I was today.” At just over two minutes, it’s a very short song, but a very, very sweet one as well.
This is the second ballad on the album, and it’s definitely the least heavy track. Personally, I don’t really care for this song, but it’s still worth at least one listen.
Track 8: Shutterbug
With a name like Shutterbug, the first sound you hear are those of cameras clicking, and that is followed by a nice bass line. Above all, this song showcases Louise’s talent as a musician. During the verses, her voice is just above that of a whisper, and without warning, there is an explosion of guitar and she, along with Gordon, belt out the choruses. During the second chorus, Louise even performs a guitar solo, although I’m sure it must be pretty difficult to be singing and soloing at the same time. And for those people who want to see the two frontwomen in all their glory, go ahead and watch the music video of this song. You won’t be disappointed.
Track 9: The Morning Sad
Here’s another song I like from this album. It’s obviously another one of Gordon’s pop-like songs, but it has a very catchy, upbeat melody, and it just seems like a song that straddles between melancholy and happiness, which is great for when you’re feeling down and deserve to be cheered up. The guitar solo that occurs midway through the song, while short, is actually my favorite one on the album.
Track 10: Sound of the Bell
I think this has to be my 3rd favorite song on Eight Arms. It’s a rather “playful” song (for lack of a better word), since it constantly alternates between soft and heavy. I also describe it as “playful” because of the lyrics, which you’ll just have to listen to in order to understand what I mean. The short guitar solo is also pretty good, and it sounds different from the other solos on the album. If this review seems short, you can mentally fill in the rest as you listen to this song, because in my opinion, it is awesome.
Track 11: Loneliness is Worse
This is the third and final ballad on the album, and it’s Veruca Salt’s saddest, most melancholic song to date, in my opinion. You can hear that in the intro, and even during the opening guitar riff, there’s something that doesn’t seem “right”, like a feeling of sorrow that is subtle yet won’t go away. This was penned by Gordon, not surprisingly. I have a love/hate relationship with sad songs (Disappear by Dream Theater takes the cake there), so while I do like this one, I usually skip over it unless I want to have my mood dip a little lower.
Track 12: Stoneface
Now here’s a song I have mixed feelings about. I love the music, but I’m not a huge fan of the lyrics since I don’t really care for vulgar language. I sort of think the song has to with someone else being in a relationship with the one you want, judging by the lyrics. While they do hit home, I don’t really care for the swearing, but in a way it adds to the song’s angry mood, so it’s not entirely worthless.
Track 13: Venus Man Trap
You know what a Venus fly trap is? That plant which snaps shut whenever a fly happens to cross its path even slightly, trapping it inside? Well, that’s what this song does to you, with its in yer freakin’ face guitar intro. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the heaviest song on the album. It does let up somewhat during the verses, when the two girls sing about following a band on tour (I think that’s what it’s about, anyway). It’s not my number 1 favorite song, but it is good. Just listen to the song if you want to understand the lyrics. Oh, and headbang to that awesome guitar riff as well.
Track 14: Earthcrosser
Here it is, the epic closer of Eight Arms to Hold You. Earthcrosser takes you on a journey through a sea of both acoustic and electric guitar, and once again, I recommend you just listen to the song to experience the full effect. There are two moments that I’ll point out, however. First off, the chorus is amazing, especially when Gordon and Post sing, “And the ring in my ears, from playing too loud. / I hear the ocean, I hear the crowd.” Obviously, this song is about the experience of themselves touring and performing live. Second, just before the final chorus, there’s a part where the song is nearly silent, and then Louise Post says, “Where’s my lip GLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSS!” Veruca Salt fans love to talk about that line, and I think it’s one of the oddest vocal lines I’ve ever heard (in a good way). As I said before, that part, as out of place as it seems, transitions into the final chorus of the song, which is repeated a few times before the album ends. It is truly an amazing way to close off Eight Arms to Hold You, and those arms do indeed wrap themselves tightly around you from beginning to end, keeping you there as you experience an essential alternative rock album.
My favorite tracks: Volcano Girls, One Last Time, With David Bowie, Shutterbug, Sound of the Bell, and Earthcrosser
Matthew Dearborn / MHF