Review: Fellow followers of current pop music-related events will have inevitably stumbled upon the term “shade” at least once throughout their travels in cyberspace – either through Rihanna’s Twitter page or an ill-advised visit to minimum security insane asylum ATRL – but for any neophytes out there, it essentially refers to sly insults delivered by useless people in the public eye, such as X-Factor judges or Perez Hilton. Fans of both pop music and heavily contrived drama can take pleasure in picking apart interviews with their ‘faves’, all the time believing that talk of an ex-bandmate’s handwriting and a diverted hand placement could the spell the end for a girl group (as was very much the case for this band).
Even when there is behind-the-scenes tension, it is rarely as explicit as we would like it to be, putting even more pressure on fans to read into every lyric, tweet, and hashtag until they can be certain that pretty much everyone in pop hates each other. Those tired of reading between the lines may find much to enjoy in Veruca Salt’s third record. With all but one of it’s thirteen tracks dedicated to either the fall-out between singer/guitarists Louise Post and Nina Gordon or the former’s split from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Resolver is positively brimming with rage and, yes, unadulterated, unexpurgated ‘shade’.
Don’t let the soft keyboard strains of opener “The Same Person” fool you – this record most definitely delivers on the idea that Post (now the only remaining original member) was far more the ‘rock’-orientated of the pair, while Gordon’s pop sensibilities helped sand down the edges. “Yeah Man” – the set’s singular love song – hits hard, with passionate, spat-out hooks coming second to the orgasmic release of its post-chorus. It’s fascinating to listen to in retrospect – with every scream of “You won’t let me down!”, you wonder how Post thought succeeding it with the wonderfully bitter “Officially Dead” wouldn’t feel jarring. Nevertheless, the track’s another winner, complete with a rusty, vengeful riff and a ice-cool coda. “We’re officially dead / we don’t have a heart” Post wails, presumably with visions of coming at Grohl with a bulldozer.
Post’s strict adherence to the alt-rock sound her band explored throughout both American Thighs and Eight Arms To Hold You meant the album arrived sounding dated back in 2000, although those with 90’s nostalgia may relish Brian Liesegang’s sharp but unimposing production. “Best You Can Get” is loosely built around a reversed sample and swirling guitars. The melody is sweet and singable, while the lyrics peak with the line “Phi Beta date rape ya / He’s sprung an agenda / and he’s got a place to put it”. “Disconnected” begins with a raw vocal and a gently slapping drum beat. Liesegang keeps it minimal for an admirably long time, slowly introducing a dash of bass, then cello, then some distorted vocal samples before allowing it all to spill over in a wonderful finale. The bare bones production means the track leans heavily on Post’s lyrics, which, while not exactly poetry, are at least searingly honest. Detailing Grohl’s alleged infidelity, Post almost mumbles: “It’s kind of scary when your lover leaves you for a movie star / and I’m still in the dark.”
Gordon’s ethereal backing vocals are missed on the album’s additional slower numbers. “Wet Suit” and “Pretty Boys” feel particularly meagre in her absence, although the intended effect of their themes is presumably to leave the listener feeling hollow, so in this respect they succeed. Only the project’s lead single “Born Entertainer” – with a chorus lazily comprising of the word “yeah” – falls completely flat. Whatever ‘shade’ she’s attempting to throw with a line like “She didn’t get it / so fuck her!”, she does better on the album’s pitch black centrepiece “Used To Know Her”.
Post’s real triumph, however, is the almost overwhelmingly emotional demo for discarded track “Fragile”- available to listen to here.