Songs From An American Movie-Vol. One: Learning How To Smile

by Chuck Hicks and Scott Hudson


Concept albums are precarious undertakings. The Beatles didn’t attempt Sgt. Peppers until they had been through a number of changes collectively as well as individually. Even then, the impetus for that seminal album was the effect Pet Sounds had on Paul McCartney. He conceived a response that would be ambiguous where Pet Sounds had been direct; shadow-laden where the Beach Boys had achieved brightness. And Sgt. Peppers as grand as it was, pretended to be neither coherent nor able to resolve anything. It was a statement of the loneliness and emptiness of modern 20th century life in England, a harbinger of the death of the “love generation”.

Thirty-three years later comes the upstart American pop/grunge compendium Everclear. Leader Alex Alexakis has decided the time has come to make a monumental statement, his Magnum Opus. And he decides to do so over two records. Songs From An American Movie-Vol. One is not only ambitious—it quite accidentally is a perfect mirror of aimless American culture at the end of the 20th century. Not that I want to tout this as some artistic epiphany. Everclear have not convinced me of their staying power. I still expect that within another five years they will be a fading curiosity. But herein is precisely why Everclear was the perfect vehicle for doing this job. No venerable, legend status act could have evoked the same sense of void and purposelessness.

cover art


Songs from An American Movie-Vol. One: Learning How to Smile


In short, American Movie-Vol. One is lyrically one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard. Opening with the thought “just the sound of my little girl laughing…makes me happy”, the album scrambles through a littered landscape of failed adult relationships, only to close with “You know I’m never home / I’m always miles and miles away / I feel I’m running out of time to say the things I need to say.” Those lines were addressed to the same little girl who is the subject of the first track. If Alexakis is “learning how to smile” amidst such heart-rending scenes, he epitomizes what has gone wrong so awry with our culture: we grin and bear it, and numb ourselves into mere functionality. Never mind that our relationships and our children are dying—we’ll just strum a little ukulele and banjo, sing some nostalgic blasts from the past, and go on our way to nowhere.

If nothing else, American Movie-Vol. One is an audio-documentary of the decline of America’s heart. We’re rotting from the inside out, and this album, however unintentionally, makes that ironically clear.

Topics: everclear
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

Call for Music Writers... Hip-Hop, Soul, Electronic, Rock, Indie, Americana, Jazz, World and More

// Announcements

"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…

READ the article