Kleenex Girl Wonder, The Why I Write Such Good Songs EP (March)

Right out of the gate, my eyebrows go up. “Why I write Such Good Songs?”‘s chirpy little guitar melody and simple chords sound like Graham Smith (ie-he who is KGW) is aiming to be his young generation’s version of Art Garfunkel. Or maybe it’s Cat Stevens. Someone, anyway, without any balls. The song is catchy but just harmless. Almost like a lo-fi gen x sitcom theme. That is until the chorus when it all goes pear-shaped into happy fun time on Sesame Street. It must be the background vocals during the chorus that push it over the brink. Hearing more than one voice sing “No one can sing like me and / No one can play guitar like me” really makes a man picture some muppets and children skipping in a circle.

The rest of the 17 minutes of this EP don’t come close to matching the cheese and sugar of the first track. But it’s hit and miss. Two tracks are “instrumentals” devoid of any real melody and which sound like Ween and Lou Barlow trading four-track experiments. “The Sun’s Also a Stand-Up Comic” is a competently assembled song, as are the other actual songs here. Obviously Smith knows how to structure a song technically, but “Sun” lacks any guts or emotional connection which would make it compelling. “Unreleased” works better to combine Smith’s winsome pop song structure with an interesting vocal and lyric. But ultimately it falls short. It’s like listening to one of your friends play you one of his four-track demos. It’s just not remarkable.

Of course, if this were all Smith had to offer, it would be more than slightly disturbing that March Records chose to release this. Thankfully for the listener and March’s rep, the final song “My, You Look Ravishing Tonite” is brilliant. Smith’s vocal melody is familiar in the best pop music sense. It’s not miles away from Weezer. The way it cracks when he goes up the melody is even a bit endearing. The accompaniment of only acoustic guitars gives the song a sense of performance where the other songs suffered from their stale drum-machined-four-trackness. The double-tracked voice on the chorus doesn’t weigh the song down with cheesiness, but authenticates the pop song heartache of the words. There are even snatches of brilliance in the lyrics: “I see you on the staircase, / descending like hair, face and eyes. . . I look out to the road / with every doubt on the globe and say / ‘My, you look ravishing tonite.'” Honestly, the song has sat on “repeat” in the discman for a long time. Hopefully it will be included on the new KGW album due in 2001. Certainly there’s more pop song brilliance in there and though it’s a damn good song, it’s difficult to advocate the $9.00 purchase price of this EP for the one track. Oh hell, maybe it isn’t. It’s still spinning on repeat.