Kleenex Girl Wonder: Ponyoak 20th Anniversary Edition  DLP   (Reesonable Records)

Release date: March 13, 2020

Bio: Kleenex Girl Wonder was formed in the Spring of 1994 in Downers Grove, IL.

Ponyoak was recorded in a single dorm room in Madison, WI, across the span of one academic year: September 1997 to May 1998. It was driven down for in-person mastering in a break between finals.

After its release, in early 1999, Kleenex Girl Wonder both continued and began a streak of ambitious live performances and international touring for which the world was ill-prepared.

At Pat’s in the Flats inside Cleveland, OH, Kleenex Girl Wonder performed with an “action funk” band having spent the afternoon exploring a living museum of neon garbage (this is not a fanciful turn of phrase; our host had an entire workshop full of detritus, but most of it was salvaged neon which he would repurpose for people looking to save a few bucks when opening their place of business) and attending a local block party for 40-year-olds. As 40-year-olds now, it is difficult to not want to be back inside those block parties, those children we were.

In Cleveland, at the “living museum of neon garbage” Smith was subjected to dental x-rays in a 1950s vintage dental chair by Jeff Chiplis, a collector not only of neon, but of anything and everything related to carrots. The “action funk” band was actually called Pleasure Void. A mild-mannered red headed kid (in keeping with the carrot theme) showed up at Pat’s in the Flats in mid-afternoon to load-in gear for his band. He returned a few hours later-in full drag, as did all of his bandmates. It was a most memorable night for the rather innocent KGW crew of suburban Chicago-land (think John Hughes, not John Holmes).

In Japan, Sony VAIO fever was all the rage and the youth wore face masks to look like they were cool and women were oppressed. Kleenex Girl Wonder wiped out Sony VAIO fever in less than six months, thanks to advances in technology. A journalist cried. The world, it seemed, could begin to heal.

The KGW kids were flabbergasted to enter the Tower Records in Tokyo and find a fully hand-painted advertising kiosk for Ponyoak gracing the aisles of one of the largest record stores in the city. Girls actually stopped them on the street for pictures and autographs, something completely unfathomable in any other context of their lives. Some girls approached Graham and Rafeeq and arranged to return to the hotel the band was staying at later to hang out. The Goodwillie brothers, excited at the news but extremely jet lagged, told Graham and Rafeeq that they were going for a nap, but to PLEASE wake them when the girls arrived. Needless to say, that request was ignored. When the Goodwillies arose from their blissful slumber in the morning nearly their first waking thought was of the almond-eyed exotics whose presence they had surely missed?!?! But, what became of them? The answer, they later found out, was that the girls had shown up and were escorted to Graham and Rafeeq’s room. Despite the language barrier, one of the girls quickly set the ground rules by taking Rafeeq’s hand and setting it gently on her mons venus and saying, very clearly, “no.” With the rules of engagement established the foursome happily stayed awake all night playing the new Sega Dreamcast that Graham had purchased as soon as we landed.

The tour staff assigned to the band from the Japanese record label, ROCK Records [IS THAT RIGHT?] were extremely nice and professional. There was Yoko, K2 (a big guy who had been nicknamed for the Himalayan mountain), and one other guy whose name has been lost to the vicissitudes of time). It quickly became apparent that Yoko was the one actually doing all of the work related to getting the band where we needed to go, arranging meals, and evening entertainment: such as an outrageous session at a private karaoke suite where Quinn delivered arguably the finest musical performance of the tour with his his room-slaying rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Yoko was mighty cute, and at least one KGW’er had his eye on her. In a lengthy dinner discussion one night Christian thanked her for her hard work and said that he hoped she got paid more than the other two guys, who didn’t seem to do anything. She laughed in that shy/embarrassed way that Japanese girls can laugh, and said that she actually got paid less. Christian was dumbfounded by that, and asked how it could be?! She said that it was fine, and that was just Japanese culture, and she had no problem with it. It was a good lesson for the young American about the inequality of expectations that American-style feminism has foisted on the rest of the world, particularly the good citizens of Japan. His eyes opened, young Goodwillie toasted Yoko for her hard work and kept on drinking deep into the wee hours of the eastern gloaming, awaiting the rising sun.