Nina Gordon

Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Warner Bros.)

In the mid-'90s, Veruca Salt drew countless comparisons to the Breeders, and its hit, "Seether," received massive airplay that put the Chicago band on the map with that Smashing bald guy for a while. Six years later, after a nasty split with co-founder Louise Post, singer Nina Gordon floundered for a new identity and found one: Through the miracle of frilly undergarments, she's wangled a cozy niche in softcore pop.

Gordon's solo debut comes armed to the orchestral teeth with an arsenal of boring mid-tempo ballads -- so many that her preoccupation with feminine vulnerability (not to mention perfume, glitter, horses and undies) gets lost in self-absorbed myopia. When she's not mocking Aimee Mann (as she does on the title track), she's aping Sara McLachlan ("Now I Can Die"). And when those efforts tank, she chums around with the ghost of Pat Benetar ("Badway") and half-assedly rocks by numbers. Worst of all, sweetcheeks sings about clothing too goddamn much: "I can't get dressed when I'm this low," she sniffles on "Badway" as if the fate of the high school prom depended upon it. On "Number One Camera," she bellyaches how "there was nothing else to do/playing records/posing in the nude," as if being female and butt nekkid were inconveniences fished from the family chore jar.

Sure, Gordon chirps purty enough -- she's downright angelic in spots. But her songwriting dilemmas are straight out of an after-school special -- the one where you might actually root for the pretty misfit. First she locates the keys to Daddy's liquor cabinet, and then Daddy's Porsche; too drunk to dance, pretty misfit then tools around Dead Dude's Curve and cries about being a "fool for you"; she threatens to kill herself, meets a cute guitar slinger in rehab, and somehow -- when the bandages come off -- musters enough strength to knock Britney Spears off the lofty pop throne in time for the last Tampax ad. Where's Willie Wonka when you need him?

Yep, Gordon is one of VH1's "Best Kept Secrets" for a reason: to show off those "American Thighs" again and be industry-molded into the next sexy flavor of the month. She's smarter than Britney, but can her luck hold out?

 
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