Naming your band after one of the most selfish characters in children’s literature makes for quite a strong mission statement. But for the reunited Veruca Salt, who played the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, the name can also be seen as a bit of punning; sure, it refers to the spoiled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” character who was always wanting more, but the way the word “assault” spills out when spoken is in tune with the way the band pairs its big-ticket rock ambitions with a left-field approach to pop melodies.
On tracks like “Volcano Girls” and “Forsythia,” guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post combined gnarly, sludgy riffs with playground-singalong harmonies — a combination that helped endear them to audiences during the ’90s gold rush for new female rock icons. That tension was only heightened by their lyrics, which often used grime-streaked imagery and puffed-up boasts to question what society’s idea of “being a lady” meant; the band’s debut single, “Seether,” has a searingly catchy melody that adds an even sharper edge to its lyrics, which cheekily focus on Post managing her hot temper.
Saturday night’s show was the last stop on the band’s 2014 reunion tour, which marked the first time Post, Gordon, bassist Steve Lack, and drummer Jim Shapiro had played together since 1997. As such, it had an exuberant feel, with Post and Gordon receiving adulation from the sold-out crowd and mirroring it back while whipping through the chugging “I’m Taking Europe With Me” and the spaced-out “Spiderman ’79.” (Portland-based opener Battleme, meanwhile, mined other bits of rock’s past, bringing together Southern boogie and buttoned-up college rock.) As part of the reunion, they got back in the studio to record an album, and despite being released 16 years after Veruca Salt’s initial fracturing, its first single, “The Museum of Broken Relationships,” is on par with earlier tracks — it opens with Gordon singing over a twisty bass line before exploding into a slightly menacing trip down bad-memory lane.
The memories on display Saturday night, however, were for the most part rose-colored. The churning, chirpy love song to a record player “Victrola” closed out the night, and its “I adore you, I adore you” refrain could have doubled as a big-hearted sendoff to those people in the audience who would go home and use their own turntables to spin Veruca Salt records old and new.Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.