This is a review of "I'm A Hungry Little Girl EP" recorded by We're Not The Cool Kids. The review was written by Paul Elam in 2007.
If somebody told me that Mary Cook (a.k.a. We’re Not The Cool Kids) lived an entirely solitary existence, away from anybody else’s music or influence, I think I’d believe them, at least for a minute (that being the minute that someone informed me that there was a Springsteen cover on her EP). The absolute musical purity of this EP is staggering – not the purity of sweetness or naivety, but instead the sound of one person so completely involved in her music that it appears as though every musical genre touched, every influence adapted, and every inspiration taken are in fact her own. Not for a long time have I heard something set to tape that appears to so closely link to one person’s (for want of a much better word) soul.
The first two tracks aren’t as perfectly formed as the rest of the EP (the only reason that it didn’t score a perfect ten), but even this seems to be part of the overall effect. Deceptively straight up, the swell of minimalist guitar and choir girl vocals of ‘Trope’ segue in to the more intricate build up ‘Clothes Make The Man’, finishing with the one and only time Mary’s voice is raised, an effect that sets up the atmosphere perfectly. The opening songs are a bearing of the soul, a saying of what needs to be said. This leaves the door open for the next four tracks to show what We’re Not The Cool Kids are truly capable of.
‘End Of A Squat Party’ is a minimalist number – a keyboard played several rooms away, breathy clicks of a drum machine and a heavily reverberated voice that doesn’t join in until the exact moment that it is required. It’s as though that moment of 4am clarity, when you suddenly look around you and truly appreciate your surroundings, has been committed to tape. And then Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m A Liar And I’m On Fire’ begins, and the feeling of clarity is replaced with a clouded melancholy. Again, this is a minimalist interpretation, which sounds as though the whole recording process is intruding on the music. No endless polishing or recording tricks here – Mary has walked in, picked her up guitar and sung this song for the first and last time ever. And somehow you just managed to be privileged enough to be there to hear it.
But the very best has been saved for the next two songs. ‘Heat’ is a jumble of styles, structure, broken vocals and film quotes. It flits between bedroom recording hardcore interludes, foreboding bubblegum sweet pop, and a sense of loss and melancholy that are so powerful that the song almost sinks under their weight. It’s easily the most inventive and emotionally direct piece of music I’ve heard since… well to be honest, since anything I can remember at the moment. In 192 seconds. It’s almost embarrassing to listen to if you’ve ever pretended to be a musician yourself.
Next we get a hugely addictive slab of lo-fi indie rock in the form of ‘Let’s Get Out Of Here’. Yes the lyrics cover a well-trodden cliché (you know, one day I’ll run away and leave all this behind). But this isn’t being sung for anyone else but the singer: We’re Not The Cool Kids aren’t using the same old cheap lyrical trick to pluck at some half assed idea of escaping out of our memory. They’re (she’s?) buggering off down the road to the sounds of cheaply recorded Sonic Youth guitars and a faithful old drum machine. We’re still sitting here, thinking how much better the indie disco would be if they played this…
And then there’s the unexpected secret track (yup – on an EP), ‘Superglue Shut My Cut’. It bears many similarities to the first two tracks, but unfortunately seems out of place at the end of the EP. The mournful vocals and roughed up guitar are as pretty and engaging as ever, but just can’t quite hold your attention as long as they should. This is all because of the insanely high quality of what’s just gone before, but it still leaves you feeling flat after the pure energy of the preceding two tracks.
But forget that minor gripe. This is the perfect CD to encourage repeated listening: each track is perfectly timed, and there is no lazy repetition of the sections that hook themselves on to your consciousness (for example, I defy anybody to listen to the part of ‘Heat’ where Mary proclaims “This is the happiest bit of this song, well it’ll get much sadder before long” over a web of chiming guitar just once), meaning that your enjoyment is never complete. This is song writing at its very most lean and well considered.