Visions of Heart, right around the time Ann Wilson was putting on the pounds, go through one's mind while listening to former Veruca Salt co-founder Nina Gordon's debut album Tonight and the Rest of My Life. Yet these dreams aren't rock and roll ones; they're slow-chewing pop nuggets with ready-made radio hooks and plenty of introspection. If Gordon's last album with Veruca Salt, 1997's Eight Arms to Hold You, was a blurry night of group hedonism, then Tonight is a quiet evening at home -- alone, naturally, with a nice cabernet and self-help book.
Suffice to say, Tonight is more tuneful than any Veruca Salt album. Besides the monster, bandwagon-jumping "Seether," Veruca Salt hasn't contributed much to the pop landscape. "Seether" came at the right time, with just enough muscle -- and Breeders-like panache -- to score. The band's two albums with Gordon are messy, ill-conceived affairs; its attempt to make itself over as a primal hard rock outfit sans testicles on Eight Arms was just plain wrongheaded. On Tonight Gordon wants to go straight and nearly succeeds. But she's a little too fond of cheeseball pop and attached to their sticky arrangements. Strings adorn many of these (mostly midtempo) songs. Even a biting track like "Now I Can Die" ("I'm the girl and he's the guy/He opened up my eyes/I understand everything and now I can die") loses some of its irony when washed in the pretty melodies Gordon supplies. But they are pretty nonetheless. And producer Bob Rock provides enough sonic strength to prevent these tunes from sinking in pathos.
Still, "Seether" fans may balk at the sheer adultness of the sweeping title track or Gordon's choice to end with an appropriately straight-faced cover of Skeeter Davis's ripe weeper "The End of the World." But it shouldn't come as a surprise by that point. Throughout Tonight Gordon asks, "What about love?" And the memory of the Wilson sisters answers back, "Don't let it slip away." Gordon takes the task to heart.