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“Everclear? Is that you? My god, I haven’t seen you in years! You haven’t changed a bit! Same ragged, hook-laden riffs, same Pacific Northwest quasi-punk sensibility — are you using some sort of age-defying rock band formula? Because you are exactly the same as the last time we met! ”
Ahh, yes. Everclear. Summer of ’95 and the FM just wouldn’t shut up about “Heroine Girl. ” Or “Santa Monica. ” Or “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore. ” They all sounded basically the same — the same as each other, and the same as Everclear’s latest release, the Ã¼ber-produced Slow Motion Daydream (Capitol).
Like any good casserole, Everclear was better the second time around with So Much for the Afterglow. But by 2000’s Scenes from an American Movie, the sauce had congealed and the cheese crusted over. There’s only so long you can pick at a dish (see also: Bad Religion post-Epitaph Records).
And yet Everclear stubbornly picks away, like second-tier actors accepting only sure-thing roles. Frontman Art Alexakis has shifted his angst from an indulgent “poor me ” to a contrived “poor us, ” lamenting the state of the world while continuing to radiate a self-imposed superiority.
Credit is due to any band that tackles even a modicum of politics in today’s frigid scene, increasingly hamstrung by see-no-evil Clear Channel media empires and their lackey DJs. And at times, Everclear nails the zeitgeist — “Blackjack ” crosshairs Attorney General John Ashcroft, rather than the obvious choice of G. Dubya, as America’s largest boil in need of a good lancing.
But cheap shot clichÃ©s abound. The single, “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom, ” may as well be an SNL parody of Alexakis. On retired porn stars, he imagines this: “I think they moved out to the suburbs/And now they’re blond, bland, middle-class Republican wives/They all have blond, bland, middle-class Republican children/Blond, bland, middle-class Republican lives. ” And on and on. Alexakis, incidentally, is also blond, upper-class, and increasingly bland.
Though it’s not surprising that “Soccer Mom ” was elected the single — so accessible it’s dull — “New Blue Champion ” would have been a better choice. Not only is it Oasis-ish enough with its soaring string section to fill the gap left by the Gallagher brothers’ last release that few cared to purchase, the gratingly bombastic Heathen Chemistry, but it also could have helped the band break free from their standard fuzzy-chord, chorus-dependent formula.
Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to ever happen. Everclear is as post-grunge Nineties as Tom Selleck is post-mustache Eighties, and just about as relevant. Perhaps a Friends cameo before the fade-out? So much for the afterglow, indeed.