Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.
Smith: The first song for The Comedy Album came about in Madrid, in late summer 2012. I was there on business, sort of—I was working, and visiting some colleagues in the local office, though I didn’t have a strong agenda. I was also traveling alone, so I had a lot of time to wander around the city, taking pictures, thinking about music, and so forth. One night during my weeklong stay, I realized I had two back issues of The New Yorker on my iPad that I hadn’t read, so I started reading them around 11 p.m. The next thing I knew, it was 3 a.m. and I had read both of them cover to cover. They both happened to be particularly good issues—if I recall correctly, there were features on the movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas and Bjarke Ingels’ nascent architectural empire—but that wasn’t why I was so surprised that I had gotten sucked in. There was a sentiment I had heard my mother and others express, relating to the fact that keeping up with a weekly magazine packed with so much content could become daunting as a stack accumulated. If one was to stay current, other things, such as sleep, perambulation and cultural events, might fall by the wayside. Thus the concept of “Fuck The New Yorker” was born.
On the surface, it seemed like a childish song title, and a childish conceit as well. However, the lyrics are pretty clear about praising the magazine’s purpose and writing, I think. Although I’ll definitely admit that I often think my lyrics are clearer than others may find them to be. It was certainly designed to get a response—hopefully a chuckle, but perhaps a sigh. In fact, after I had written and recorded a demo, I realize that perhaps this might be a good way to finally get featured in the titular magazine, although that has not come to pass just yet (TNY would likely never stoop so low, of course). For this reason, I initially called the song “Smith 2,” a reference to the rather polarizing “audio play” I recorded and released around the turn of the century, which engaged in a bit of listenership-baiting as well. But ultimately, it just had to be called “Fuck The New Yorker,” because that’s the kind of song it is.
When I got back to America, I shared this song with Thayer and Matt, and they cautiously approved of my ridiculous conceit. At the time, Thayer was working at New York magazine, and asked if I could also write a follow-up song called “Fuck New York Magazine” (he was not super thrilled with his job at that time and would resign shortly thereafter). I realized that I couldn’t just go around fucking every magazine, and in fact, by the same logic I had applied to “Fuck The New Yorker” would yield its converse in a song called “I Love New York (Magazine),” despite (or because of) the fact that I much preferred the reportage of TNY. For “ILNY(M),” I did my best to write “bad” lyrics, which is one of those goals you can set for yourself that ensures that nobody will win. Either they are successful, and therefore they are by definition not “bad,” or they fail, in which case they are “bad” by their own criteria. Me and my windmills. I hope there is some semblance of purple prose remaining in these lyrics; Matt accordingly beseeched me to turn in the most overtly operatic performance I could for the vocal takes, and I think I “took it there,” so to speak.
These two songs, along with “Daily Post Mortem,” hint at a theme of periodical obsession, but I think that that is only skin-deep. In reality, both “FTNY” and “ILNY(M)” are quite closely tied to the larger exploration of humor on The (appropriately named) Comedy Album. One was a “trifle” designed to get a reaction, and another was an experiment in ham-fisted populism. I like to believe I got some of the psychological need to be funny out of my system on this album, but I suppose only time will tell if that belief is accurate.