[8 September 2006]
Most people have heard of Everclear. Many less actually know more than two of their songs. The band made it big in the post-grunge mid-‘90s and had a string of vaguely angst-filled yet undeniably fun modern rock tunes. Songs like “Santa Monica” and “Everything to Everyone” are quite catchy, even bordering on poignant. Everclear’s place in the modern rock world was entrenched.
Since those days, the band has wandered through the proverbial wilderness. While Music From an American Movie Volume 1 was a commercial success, the follow-up Volume 2 ran into timing issues and never got off the ground. Another forgotten album in 2003, and suddenly a 20-track greatest hits collection was released in 2004. As mainstream affection for Everclear’s music waned, the greatest hits collection seemed to signify a sense of closure. Mainstream rock success is fickle, and Everclear seemed to get dumped off at the side. The fact that the band ended its relationship with Capitol, the label the band had been with for 10 years, seemed to further cement that fact.
But Art Alexakis was always a talented musician, and such talents rarely just disappear. Now he’s back, on a new label, and has billed Welcome to the Drama Club as a veritable return to Everclear’s indie roots. The band itself has changed as well, with now five members instead of three. The anvil is apparent; everything screams out “fresh start”. But in many ways, nothing has changed. Everclear is still a band that makes vaguely angst-filled yet undeniably fun modern rock tunes. It’s something that Alexakis is good at.
The album, thematically, deals with relationships. The first single is “Hater”, which Alexakis calls “the ultimate ‘break up’ song”. And while that might be a bit of an overstatement, it does have the urgency, bite, and the pervasive immaturity that captures the intense emotions that one feels right after a break-up. Lyrics such as “You’re beautiful in an ugly way / The sex wasn’t that good anyway” sound clunky, but during a break up, don’t we all say these things? This isn’t “Tangled Up in Blue”, but you can sing along and the “whoa oh ohs” make your head nod.
The album has other bright moment as well. “Broken” is a strummy little number with a subject matter that fits its title. “Glorious” has a great harmonic chorus. Songs like “Shine”, “Portland Rain”, and “The Drama King” are in the standard modern rock mold, yet are very listenable and interesting. There are also the weak moments. “Under the Western Stars” feels a little too long, and “Now” drags. Yet the album as a whole is a solid piece of work.
This is an album of mostly good songs by a mostly good band. Will this album change the world? Probably not. With the little fanfare this album has garnered so far, it doesn’t seem like it will even reach the successes of past Everclear efforts. Yet this isn’t a waste of time. It isn’t an unnecessary effort by a band past its prime. The album is merely 12 good songs and 55 entertaining minutes. If you like this kind of music, it’ll satisfy.