Thigh will be one

The future of rock or a bunch of opportunistic Charlatans? Tracey Pepper reports from Chicago on the mixed, and strong, feelings aroused by Veruca Salt.

Let‘s make one thing clear upfront: Veruca Salt are not The Monkees. An A & R Svengali did not sweep in and assemble these people as his or her vision of the ultimate alternative rock band.

lt just so happens that Veruca Salt have everything it takes to appeal to the mope-rock generation. the same kids who made stars of Kurt ‘n' Eddie and Trent and Courtney. They have the sweet and sour pop ttmes. doused with malaise; the dewy. alterna- girl good looks of singer/guitarist Nina Gordon and Louise Post. and the fact that they hail from Chicago. the city that spawned Smashing Pumpkins. Urge Overkill and Liz. Phair.

Although Veruca Salt are a very appealing rock band. their launch out ofthe garage and into the mainstream was mainly the result of great timing and good fortune. As early as the band‘s third gig. the Chicago male rock press. a notoriously dopey btmch. was in love. Glowing reviews led to high-profile support gigs. signing with local indie label Minty Fresh. and recording their debut album. American Thighs. with producer Brad Wood. who also recorded both of Phair’s albums.

Though the A 8; R suitors began to cast longing looks at Veruca Salt early on, a show at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin. Texas. gave them a case of the screaming thigh sweats and set off a national bidding war. ‘Seether'. the band's first single. sold out its US and UK runs within six weeks. Before the album was even released. influential modern rock radio stations in Chicago and l.os Angeles played homemade DAT copies of the song every live minutes.

Veruca Salt's handsome prince arrived in the form

of David Geffen. Last July. the band signed a

contract with his label. DGC Records, home of Nirvana and Beck. The deal included a $500,000 advance and it could lead to 1182.5 million payoff by the fifth record. Veruca Salt is now represented by Metallica's manager. has completed an American tour supporting Hole and has used ground beefand coy lesbian imagery to propel the video for ‘Seether‘ into heavy rotation on MTV.

Veruca Salt may be a marketing man‘s wet dream. Yes. girls want to be them and guys want to do them. But they never expected it to happen like this.

Gordon. 27. was an assistant curator at Chicago's Art ' Institute and Post. 28. was performing with a theatre

group founded by actor John Cusack when the two women were introduced. They began writing songs together and eventually asked Gordon's brother Jim Shapiro. 2‘). to join them. An ad calling for a female

i bass player produced Steve Lack. 24. who hoped

they wouldn't notice he was a guy. Soon. Shapiro and Laek‘s heavy rhythm section transformed the duo’s neo-folk songs into dark rock anthems for the Prozac generation.

Then all hell broke loose. A band that seemed destined for not much more than indie cult status

Veruca Salt: it’s been far from plain saline suddenly became the crossover stars of '94. Of course. the backlash wasn’t far behind.

‘The Breeders only with fewer man'iages!’ crowed Gerard Cosloy. owner of Matador Records. ‘They're only the thing because everyone figures they’re probably the thing.‘ sniffed Sub Pop’s Nils Bernstein. Anti-Veruca Salt graffiti appeared in the women‘s toilets in a Chicago indie-rock club. One local critic admitted that criticising a young hand because it hadn't paid its dues was stupid, but it was sad to see such an ordinary band being talked about as if it were the Second Coming.

Other Chicago bands. who had the most to lose from Veruca Salt‘s success. tumed out to be their biggest supporters. The ‘Seether‘ video was co- directed by Red Red Meat lead singer Tim Rutili and lead Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan tumed up at the record release party for American 'I'hig/is. Best of all. Steve Albini. indie arbiter oftaste, thinks they're lame. And if he hates you. superstardom can‘t be far behind.

Veruca .S'all hear/line the NME Carlsberg Brat Bus Tam: featuring NME's ('/1()f('(’ aft/w hes! Upcoming bands, which drops in on King Tut's. Glasgim' an Man 16. Turn to page 84far the chance to win Bra! Bus—related gain/res. s

IEEEIIII 3 Unsung é heroes 2

Jazz does not live in the same kind of ; media glare as rock and pop, but even when the spotlight does fall on musicians, it is likely to be pointed in the direction of those who catch the eye as well as the ear. The so-called iazz revival of the late-80$ saw the likes of Courtney Pine, Andy Sheppard, Steve Williamson and Tommy Smith


edging their way onto the fashion pages as well as the music ones, but they are generally exceptions to the

For the most part, jazz musicians ply

saxophonist Geoff Simkins have much in common in that respect, as well as a long-established partnership, both as a duo and in ensemble formats. Cliff is the more familiar of the two

Dave Cliff

their trade in the relative anonymity of a specialist market, valued by those in the know, but hardly even names to the wider public. Nonetheless, such musicians are the lifeblood of the music - it is they who carry the torch, who keep the music playing through the hard times.

There is nothing overtly missionary in the demeanour of two such players who visit Scotland this month, but they do fall into that category. Guitarist Dave Cliff and alto

north of the border, but the chance to hear them together in these parts is a rare one. Neither would be characterised - or characterise themselves - as innovators, but both are highly capable instrumentalists and lucid improvisers working in an amalgam of mainstream and hop styles which lie at the very heart of the modern jazz tradition. Check them out. (Kenny Mathieson) ' Dave Cliff and Geoff Simkins play The Tron, Edinburgh on Wed 25.


The List 13—26 January 1995 33