Maybe you can never go home again. But if you could, Ghost Notes would be the soundtrack.
For some reason I’ve avoided writing about Ghost Notes since it came out last summer. I’m not sure why—I really like this album. I also love Veruca Salt. They make the short list of my all-time favorite bands. The only thing I can think of is that I was trying to keep this album for myself. It’s like reliving a memory—something you’d only share with someone who understands what you’ve been through. Or maybe it’s because Nina and Louise harmonizing again feels like a freshly washed blanket out of a warm dryer and I just want to curl up and daydream while I listen. It’s been my sanctuary, invitation only.
Ghost Notes is vibrant, powerful, and packed with refined adult angst; it’s also extremely familiar. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s my favorite quality of the album. It’s everything I miss about Veruca Salt and how I’ve romanticized the idea of what it would be like to recapture teenage love. Reality will never be as good as the fantasy, but in Veruca Salt’s case they’ve managed to rediscovered the magic they had from their first two albums, and in doing so brought me right back into my high school bedroom. Maybe you can never go home again, but if you could this would be the soundtrack. Older, more mature, and all of the childish insecurities buried deep beneath an exterior of defiance and collared shirts.
Not that Veruca Salt was ever the youthful exuberance of pop rock, the band leaning more on cerebral advances and driving guitars, but this album is a living will of their progression as musicians and songwriters. They’ve become masters of their craft, something only time and experience can develop—a kick to the nuts of the double-edged tragedy that is rock n’ roll’s youthful expiration date. Eddie Vedder keeps doing it, Beck—even though Jack White and Billy Joe Armstrong will never see another Teen Choice Award—nostalgia aside—the craftsmanship of their music has dramatically improved with their age.
Veruca Salt can be kept in the same company, but it’s their familiar dynamic, harmony, and energy that makes Ghost Notes one of my favorite records over the last year—not it’s ability. This record gives you the same feeling you get when you meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in years. It’s effortless—you just pick right back up where you left off. Sure, there’s new stories to tell, the haircuts are different, but there’s still that natural balance and flow without a moment of awkwardness.
Having rocked out to the band’s entire catalog over the years—including b-sides, bootlegs, and solo careers—I know all about the novella that is Veruca Salt. The explosive breakup, the questionable relationships, the piercing lyrics, and suspicious release dates—all of which may have me reading into (and appreciating) this album more than I should. It was such a welcomed surprise when it was announced, and to be honest I never thought it would actually make it to the release date. But it did. A testament to all of us experimenting with adulthood.
I always envisioned that grownups had it figured out; when you reached a certain age you were blessed with knowledge, confidence, authority, and sound decision making skills. I know we get better at it, but I mostly feel like my teenage self trying to do all of the things that adults are supposed to be doing. Acting the way they’re supposed to act. While I don’t feel this album is pretending to be anything that it isn’t, if you listen close, you can still hear the young women who wrote "Celebrate You" and "Wolf." The heart and soul is the same, the skin just got a little thicker and metaphors more profound. Ghost Notes is new music that I can identify with—adult relationships and heartbreak, resentment, reminiscing, tempered excitement, freedom, and self-reliance—all told through familiar voices that sung me through the teenage equivalent.
Ghost Notes is a throwback to the way music used to be enjoyed—the overarching quality and build of the entire album being more important than a forgettable single. You put the record on and listen to it as a whole, it’s power and mystique diminished by iPhone shuffle—a nod back to the days when you put a physical disc in a player and were rewarded for your effort.
I'm happy for Veruca Salt. They’ve mended fences, bottled chemistry, and persevered. If you were ever a fan of the band, buy the album. Don’t even question it. If you’re just discovering them—welcome to the rabbit hole. You’ve just made a new best friend.