Sound — 10
After the unexpected success of their indie breakthrough "American Thighs", Veruca Salt were the object of a lot of criticism- for being sellouts, for being a gimmicky girl band with guitars, for being too pretty to be taken seriously, etc... What did they do in response? Recorded a powerful, stripped-down EP with Steve Albini and then released this- "Eight Arms to Hold You"- produced by big rock heavyweight Bob Rock, and silenced everyone. No longer cute and angsty, these are women breaking out the big guns- showing the big boys how to rock, and showcasing a lyrical depth and, yes, beauty, that you just can't find in the male- dominated world of arena rock. And yes, this IS unapologetic arena rock, recorded with a sensitivity that makes it personal, but leaves enough room for the guitars to soar. And they do- Powerful, heavy rock tone, sweet melodies, and attitude for days. A band that lays to waste your ideas of what a "girl band" can do. And in a beautiful. Melodic way.
Lyrics — 9
The band has two lyricists, Nina Gordon and Louise Post. Each splits the songwriting nearly equally, and each sings the songs they've written. Louise is the lead guitarist (and a ferocious one), and Nina is rhythm. Louise is the rocker of the two, and she can spit venom with the best of them, her vocals matching her out-of-control screams, and then returning to a tiger purr. Nina is the "sweet" voice of the two, singing and writing the poppier material, which is equally important, and gives the album a sense of balance, although the fantastic production makes the changes seem seamless. Vocals are definitely no problem for these gals, and the emotions expressed in this album run the gammut of fantasy to bittersweet realism. Gorgeous.
Overall Impression — 9
The album opens with a blast of feedback, in the reckless way of a lot of 90s rock, and proceeds into the rocker "Straight"- giving the impression that this a band to be reckoned with. Don't be fooled. The album unfolds like a rose, each song drawing you into an emotional world punctuated with insecurities, triumphs, lust, and just plain joy. That the girls in the band were often asked to do (and did) side projects with some big names is testament to the respect afforded them in the rock community. Emotional, but not sentimental. Confident, but not arrogant. Beautiful, but never sappy. One of the best big releases of the 90s. Period.