Creating melodic centrepieces with a lyrical heart as rich as their aural temptation is seemingly as second nature to US singer songwriter Graham Smith as breathing; proof easily gathered over closing on three decades of releases either under his name or as Kleenex Girl Wonder. As the latter he has spun yet another feverishly flavoursome collection of melody bred pop ‘n’ roll songs in the shape of new album Vana Mundi, one of those albums which schemes to get under the skin and into the imagination as it echoes contemporary life in its own distinct way.
Latin for ‘Empty World’, Vana Mundi reaches into the heart of life, into its selfish and selfless sides with often the latter emerging from the exploration of the former. It is as intimate as it can be seen worldly, suggesting experiences have bred its heart and thoughts as much as observation. It opens up with Practical Effects and immediately holds attention with guitars creating a lively clamour followed by a gentle stroll with a swing which just infests hips. Smith’s vocals soon follow to similarly beguile in their own distinct tongue and breath. Thoughts sprung to Britain’s Astral Cloud Ashes the closest comparison we can suggest to the uniqueness of Kleenex Girl Wonder, wondering if this also one man project was inspired by Smith a touch in its own individuality.
The excellent opener is quickly followed and matched by the bouncy saunter of Greek Fire, the resonating thud of rhythms alone a potent lure behind the boisterous and flirtatious exploits of voice and guitar. With each passing second each aspect accelerates its lustful gait and appeal, only relaxing to repeat the irresistible cycle with even greater enterprise and energy. Superb in every essence, the song sets a marker to be regularly worried across the release if maybe not quite by next up Trattegio. In saying that, the song only has attention and appetite keen with its calmer and eagerly infectious endeavours featuring guitarist Thayer McClanahan and drummer Matt LeMay alongside Smith.
Not for the last time on the album, Kleenex Girl Wonder brings a slight Kinks like hue to ears; Sounds Good a mellow engagement with volatility in its depths which rumbles rather than erupts across its reflection while Sexy Legitimate Threat casts an acoustic hug which soothes as lyrics strike. Like a magnet the song just draws ears and the imagination, every listen more intense as its simple but richly layered body pounces with greater enjoyment the result before The Mesomorph prowls the senses with its controlled yet open rapacious intent and tone. The dark edge of bass and rhythms seductively collude with the melodic and harmonic intimation of Smith, every handful of seconds within the song adding fresh drama to its increasing ingenuity.
Impossible Shadow is similarly inventive and distinct with its folkish aural festivities and subsequent shadow lit calms. Alongside its predecessor this pair provides the most imaginative exploits within Vana Mundi, its most powerful and impressive moments among nothing but rich moments of invention; the latter especially with its XTC-esque adventure.
The rawer buzz of Ask Mountain is not slow in tempting with arousing enterprise either; its melodic clamour resourceful and deviously catchy as electronic beats dance. It is infectiousness just as prevalent within the buoyant romp of Sunday Night Fever, a controlled but busy song with waves of energy in its voice and intent.
The album closes up with Picture the Kid, another vociferously rousing encounter with a great Frank Black like hue to its creative theatre and expressive breath. It is an irresistible end to an unavoidably fascinating and enjoyable release. It was a pleasure from the first listen earning only lustier responses thereon in; the album of summer’s dark side.
Vana Mundi is available now via Reesonable Records @ http://kgw.me/album/vana-mundi
Pete RingMaster 26/06/2018
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