When Veruca Salt announced their reunion late last year, all I could think was “Why? Doesn’t Ume have that market covered?” Because if you were to search for a hard rocking, female-fronted, alternative rock band, Austin’s Ume should be one of the first stops on your journey.
On their third album, Monuments, the power trio proves their sonic mastery. Unsurprisingly, the album was recorded in Seattle and that classic grunge sound really comes through in the music. You could believe that the opening to “Black Stone” could have been a Kim Thayil riff from Soundgarden’s mid-90s heyday. That is until Lauren Langner Larson’s voice cuts through the heaviness. She sounds like the female version of Robert Plant, simultaneously sexy and powerful, able to bounce between a wisp and a howl.
For however dynamic Larson is as a front woman, the album is equally dynamic. The mid-album acoustic ballad, “Barophobia” allows Larson’s voice to step to the forefront where it shines. It is hard not to listen to the track and draw comparisons to Karen O. Similarly, late album standout “Gleam” sounds like it has the crossover potential that “Maps” had for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Overall, Monuments feels like it should be able to break Ume. The band has steadily gained fans since their formation in 2011, Monuments has an across-the-board appeal with its mix of hard rock, indie, and pop. We’ll see if any of Veruca Salt’s new material can hold a candle to Monuments.