From the first time I heard Santa Monica, I have been a fan of Everclear. Ever since then, I’ve followed the rock trio closely. Through their careers, they’ve put together some great albums along with some hit songs. And that’s one of the things I’ve always liked about them. They weren’t just about creating great songs, but also creating great albums that were really worth your money.
I’m going to take a some time to rank these albums (leaving out the “Greatest Hits”, of course) as I have enjoyed them over the years:
- Sparkle and Fade – The album that introduce me and most of the world to Everclear. Sparkle and Fade really showed off the storytelling abilities of lead singer and song writer Art Alexakis. The entire album is filled with raw emotion and pain. Even as a kid growing up in the comfy arms of suburbia, it gave a glimpse at life surrounded by dysfunction and despair. While Santa Monica being the most popular track on the album, and Heartspark Dollarsign being the second-most-likely to have heard song, I was really more drawn to some of the other songs on the album, like The Twistinside and Strawberry. All in all, the entire album is great, and really is a treat to listen to as a full album.
- So Much For The Afterglow – If you had somehow managed to miss Everclear’s Sparkle and Fade, their follow up So Much for the Afterglow was almost impossible to miss. Their first three releases off the album, Everything to Everyone, I Will Buy You A New Life, and Father of Mine all shot up the charts and into public awareness. It was definitely a strong follow up to Sparkle and Fade, keeping much of the same tone and attitude. This album was a bit more polished, but managed to hold on to the essence of Everclear. Again, the album is a gem as a whole, but in particular it contains some of my favorite Everclear songs, including Normal Like You, Amphetamine, Sunflowers, and the instrumental El Distorto De Melodica.
- Songs From An American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time For A Bad Attitude – This album was the second in a pair of themed albums that the band put out in about six months in 2000 and 2001. While the first album was a bit “happier”, Bad Attitude brought back the Everclear attitude at a time I was afraid they were falling away from it. Highlighted by When It All Goes Wrong Again, Overwhelming (originally an Art Alexakis solo project that he decided was a better fit for the band as a whole), and another instrumental piece in Halloween Americana, Bad Attitude kept the Everclear train chugging along. Though it’s focus changed from the dregs of life to commenting on the messed up things they saw around them on their rise to fame. While not being as deep and hard-hitting, it was perfect fodder for my teenage and twentysomething angst.
- Slow Motion Daydream – By the time 2003 had rolled around, I was pleased to discover that Everclear was releasing another album. It had been rumored that the Songs From An American Movie compilation was going to be the band’s last release together, so getting more new material was definitely a bonus. Even more of a bonus is the fact that Slow Motion Daydream contains one of my favorite Everclear songs: Sunshine (The Acid Summer). Sunshine breaks the mold of the majority of Everclear songs and reflects on “kids being kids” and is rife with nostalgia towards the freedom of youth. While I’m now in my late 20’s, Sunshine always brings a smile to my face (much like the Fresh Prince’s Summertime). Also included on this album is the smarmy and hilarious Volvo Driving Soccer Mom, How To Win Friends and Influence People, and New Blue Champion. While some of the tracks are a little less distinctive, this album is actually very much in the mold of Everclear’s first two major releases. A few great songs, followed closely behind by a cavalcade of very good songs. After nearly a decade, the band had stuck to its guns, creating as much good music as they could.
- World of Noise – Let’s jump back in time to the band’s first release. World of Noise can be summed up in a single word: raw. While the both the lyrics and instruments can both be a little rough, songs like Fire Maple Song, Nervous and Weird, and The Laughing World showcased glimpses of what the band could/would become. So while World of Noise is not Everclear’s best work, it was a great start and was enough to take them to the next level. While this albums is a little more rare, being released under the independent Tim/Kerr label, I did manage to snag myself a copy shortly after the release of So Much for the Afterglow.
- Songs From An American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile – By the time Learning How To Smile was released in late 2000, Everclear’s popularity had peaked. While the album’s AM Radio and Wonderful were pop hits, the band appeared to be losing some of it’s edge. It could still be seen in Wonderful, Here We Go Again and Now That It’s Over, but much of the album seemed to reflect the “good place” that Alexakis had found in his life at the time. While I realize this was done intentionally (since Learning How To Smile was designed to be the “feel good” album of the two-part compilation), I just didn’t enjoy it as much as their other efforts. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, but I was left with higher expectations after previous two efforts. Oh yea, their cover of Brown Eyed Girl is something I still find embarrassing, since I wasn’t a fan of the song in the first place, so that brings the album down a notch as well.
- Welcome To The Drama Club – I’m not even sure where to start with this album, but it doesn’t even compare with any of the band’s earlier releases. Following 2003’s Slow Motion Daydream, the guys of Everclear decided that they had made a good run and to pursue other interests. A year later, Alexakis, who had become a workaholic with his music after he had been able to kick his pervious drug adictions, decided to continue Everclear with the permission of former members Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund. After adding four new members, the “new” Everclear released Welcome To The Drama Club in 2006. While underneath the stylings of the new members you can still hear the basis of the melodies that I have associated with Everclear for the past decade and a half. It’s not awful, but it’s just not the same. Also, it unfortunately produced one of the singly most offensive music videos to go along with it’s first single, Hater, which nearly prevented me from listening to any more of the album. Thankfully, it appears to have been replaced by this less offensive video, even if it isn’t any good.
Over the years, Everclear has produced a lot of excellent music, and Alexakis is striving to continue doing that into the future. Next month, the new quintet is releasing an album of various cover songs dubbed The Vegas Years. While I don’t think cover songs have been the band’s strength, maybe the new assembly can pull it off. After all, the band may have sparkled and faded, but Alexakis is striving to make it a slow fade.