Sometimes side projects are a great thing, but most times, they’re a mediocre thing. In the case of Nick Stienborn’s Why Bother?, it is a great thing. The Wonder Years’ guitarist has crafted five tracks that are different from his main band’s work, but still familiar enough for fans of The Wonder Years to want to take note. This Isn’t Very Good blends pop punk with emo influences reminiscent of You Blew It! or Into It. Over It.
The EP opens with the title track. It’s melodic and clean, but there is a slightly static clicking on the track that sounds like a mixing error or something that is really annoying and kind of hard to ignore once you notice it. It brings in the synth that we’re accustomed to hearing in some of The Wonder Years’ songs toward the end, and the whole track is something that I would recommend to a friend if they asked me for a song that sounded like The Wonder Years but different enough to not be The Wonder Years 2.0 – which is something that side projects can easily turn into (I’m looking at you, Long Lost.) The line “I’m not motivated enough to better me / I guess I never really tried, and I won’t” is a sentiment that seems to plague the twenty-something crowd, and Stienborn delivers it in an honest, unapologetic way.
In between “This Isn’t Very Good” and “Parasite” is an instrumental track called “Pause,” and it offers a nice place to take a breather after the heavy themes introduced with the title track. “Pause” bleeds into “Parasite” almost perfectly. If “This Isn’t Very Good” was the thesis of the album, “Parasite” is its antithesis: “Why are you still here / Where are you going / Do you have a plan? / 'Cause if you don’t, it’ll catch up to you,” is the opposite of “I’m not motivated enough to better me.” “Long Road” is, out of all five tracks, the one that sounds the most pop punk. Stienborn’s frustration with his failures is evident throughout the EP, but especially in this track with his crooning of “There’s so much pressure.”
This Isn’t Very Good closes with “I Exist Alone,” a powerful five minutes of heartfelt musicianship. Stienborn’s vocals and lyrics (“I exist alone, but I do it to myself”) gave me literal chills the first time I listened to the track all the way through. It ends abruptly and jarringly, mirroring the EP’s opening and bringing everything full circle.