Nina Gordon

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

When Veruca Salt drew countless comparisons to the Breeders, "Seether" received massive mid-'90s airplay, putting the Chicago band on the map with Smashing Bald Guy for a while. Six years later, after a nasty split with cofounder Louise Post, singer Nina Gordon flounders for a new identity and finds one: Through the miracle of frilly undergarments, she's wangled a cozy niche in soft-core pop.

Gordon's solo debut comes armed to the orchestral teeth with an arsenal of boring midtempo ballads -- so many, in fact, 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 (title track) she's aping Sarah McLachlan ("Now I Can Die"). When those efforts tank, she chums around with the ghost of Pat Benatar ("Badway") and rocks by half-assed numbers. Worst of all, sweet cheeks sings about clothing too goddamned 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. She bellyaches how "there was nothing else to do/Playing records/Posing in the nude" ("Number One Camera') as if being female and butt nekkid were inconveniences fished out of 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 to locate the keys to Daddy's liquor cabinet, followed by the keys to 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.

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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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