Less a triumphant comeback than a passable return, Veruca Salt’s Ghost Notes teeters on the brink of greatness, but ultimately feels uninspired and flabby. You can’t fault the band for lack of effort, though; each song is carried off with aplomb and energy, and at no point does it ever feel like Nina Gordon and Louise Post are phoning the thing in for the sake of a quick buck. The music just lacks the edge of the pair’s work in the past, and even if Ghost Notes doesn’t necessarily offend, it does certainly feel like an anti-climax.
The greatness of Veruca Salt’s work in the past was always born from the tension between their pop sensibilities and their desire to experiment. Here, however, the tension is largely absent. Songs feel messy and half baked. The empowering lyric of Black and Blonde doesn’t stop the tune from feeling merely like a humdrum power pop number played with a fuzz pedal, and the airy breakdown that stops the proceedings in their tracks around the three minute mark jars.
Nonetheless, the band’s biggest downfall on Ghost Notes seems to be their lack of an internal editor. Songs like Prince Of Wales and Empty Bottle, both of which stretch over the five minute mark, lose their steam very early on, meandering to disappointing finales that leave little in their wake. Album closer Alternica similarly takes far too long to reach a point of emotional catharsis that might have been more effective if it had come a good minute earlier.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the album’s most successful songs get straight to the point. The two minute long Laughing In The Sugar Bowl is hardly ground-breaking, but it’s undeniably enjoyable, and the boppy, punky strains genuinely delight. Similarly, The Museum of Broken Relationships snakes its way around a catchy riff, eventually bubbling over into an inevitable yet ecstatic climax.
Ultimately however, a shadow of unfulfilled brilliance hangs heavy over Ghost Notes. It doesn’t only hurt to remember what the band once was, it also stings to think of what the record could have been with only a touch more polish. Though Ghost Notes is not a disaster, it’s something that hurts just as much. It’s a disappointment.