Kleenex Girl Wonder - White Lacuna - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Kleenex Girl Wonder - White Lacuna

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2018-10-26
Kleenex Girl Wonder - White Lacuna
Kleenex Girl Wonder - White Lacuna

While I was listening to “White Lacuna”, the new offering from Kleenex Girl Wonder, I was wondering if there is such a thing as the thinking man’s rock-pop music? I mean, sure, there have been some deep lyricists in the past. Jim Morrison’s stuff was out there, but also somewhat affected by alcohol and who knows what else. Writers like Springsteen and Josh Tillman are good at telling stories, but their lyrics are basic enough for just about anybody to absorb without the aid of a dictionary or a set of encyclopedias.

That isn’t so much the case with KGW’s Graham Smith. The lyrics he adds to his always catchy musical numbers are somewhere between the longest breakup note ever and slam poetry. This isn’t music you just put on and walk away from. It demands to be listened to with an attentiveness seldom required in the popular music world, and the effort invested generally pays off positively.

“White Lacuna” is the second album released by the New York City based band this year, and is the nineteenth recording by numerous iterations of Kleenex Girl Wonder dating back to 1993.

The one constant over those 25 years has been Smith, who usually does most of the recording work single-handedly. For live performances, Thayer McClanahan handles the guitar chores and Adam Russin is the percussionist. As well as writing and singing, Smith pays the bass guitar.

“The History of Ice” wastes no time in smacking the listener with a verbal tsunami that includes phrases dealing with Wilhelm screams, gaslights and bell curves. I don’t think Smith could write a verse/chorus, verse/chorus, verse song if his life depended on it. The structure here is totally out of the box construction, but the music and words never seem to be in a battle of mutual destruction. This cut has a full pop sound and almost a chorus. Tempo changes keep the listeners on their toes and give the song a very mainstream musical feel. You don’t get to do this for 25 years if you don’t know how to write music that stands out.

The second offering, “A Sweet Person” which all three members laid down in the studio, gives us a happy-go-lucky mood that somewhat betrays the lyrics explaining why the titular person is anything but as described. “And I think he”d be perfect / if he weren’t such an arrogant jerk, It’s such a shame / everybody know it’s just a game.” croons Smith, with enough of a bite in his voice to tell us just what he is thinking. “No one wants to be alone when the world ends / so you take a gamble on a sweet person.” closes the number nicely with a comment on human nature.

A double-tracked choral vocal gives “Hope All Is Lost” its personality and leads to a tense, one-note pounding in the song’s middle that is more uncomfortable than other anthems here. The song comments on the screwed up state of the world in a rather matter-of-fact tone that doesn’t make the listener ready to skip through the tulips when it ends. It also doesn’t exaggerate to make things sound worse than they are. “We build generational wealth by breaking / the rules and not answering questions. / Some say criticism is a blessing; / to me it’s an interdiction. And since it’s  / all just a matter of perception, / what really matters is the vision.” Indeed.

Catchy guitar work introduces “Lake Is Fine” and leads to the closest thing to a real chorus on the album. The lyrics aren't repeated, but the music is. Close enough for me!  This is probably my favorite cut offered, as much for the perfect rock thrashing as the exceptional lyric writing. Radio ready anytime!

The acoustic guitar mellows out “White Witch”, which serves as a doorway to songs that get darker and more descriptive of what obviously was a bad breakup. “My future’s so bright / that my transition lenses / are insufficient to deflect / the light,” sings Smith. Corey Hart would approve! Interesting keyboard work sounding a bit like a circus calliope fits into the middle of the song and alters the mood just because of its existence.

“Emerita” is the most stripped down rendering on the disc with just acoustic guitar accompanying the lyrics for the first half. Basic percussion eventually kicks in but stays very low key and unobtrusive. That isn’t to say the lyrics are few and far between. The stream continues to flow through the entire song,

The only way I could come up with to describe “Angelina”, a better-than nine-minute song of bitterness and lost love, is to call it the soundtrack of the worst couples therapy session in recorded history. Ryan Smith adds some great keyboard work to the tense guitars and shadowy vocals that open here. As the music flows along, the vocals get a bit more intense as the storyline gets darker. “I can only imagine what you got up to / whenever my back was turned. / So your accusations, while not untrue / aren’t my most pressing concern,” wails Smith as he lets us look at the grimy underbelly of a relationship gone to hell. “As a Leviathan, you’re all wet / and I’m sick of diving - / holding my breath, / dodging your tridents, and  / fighting compression sickness. /  Remind me why we’re friends?” is uniquely brutal and descriptive at the same time. This song actually has a minute long instrumental at the close, which I expect was put there to give us all 60 seconds to recover.

“Judas Beach” follows with a more dreamy feel until the close, where what sounds like an angry female voice begins wailing about needing an attorney. Hmmm..not exactly singalong material here, but I don't think that was Smith's aim.

The guitar licks on “Worry the Well” are worth the price of admission. This is the purest rock sounding tune, and the screaming strings actually give Smith a chance to catch his breath for a few seconds. This one will stick in your head, as some clever phrasing also gets the attention. “Back on the cross - after some R&R and CBT / for your PTSD / you’re in perfect health” uses acronyms and irony to hook the listener.

KGW gets a little punky on “The Wet Wizard” which closes the album with a quick and to-the-point blast containing a five-point list of life lessons to take to heart. It is up-tempo and enlightening all rolled into a tight little goodbye.

My fear for “White Lacuna” is that many listeners will take in the first class music without really paying much attention to the lyrics offered.( I will admit it isn’t easy and takes a fair amount of focus to keep up sometimes.) If this was to be the case, those listeners will be missing out on some of the most noteworthy writing being put out there. As mentioned, this isn’t a record you use for background music. You put in on, sit back and just absorb what Smith has to say about what seems to have been a pretty dark chapter of his life. We have darn near all been there at one time or another, but darn near none of us are capable of laying it out like it is here. Smith has said that he “tries to complexify without going overboard”, and that he “usually succeeds and fails, respectively.”  I think that assessment is a bit harsh. I don’t see a failure here on either front.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles