Saint Cobain still has a lot to answer for. The media's burial of grunge notwithstanding, a host of bands are still churning out chunky punk-metal riffs and strained, angsty poetry. And a host of sulking adolescents wearing flaky nail polish are still buying it.
The major-label debut by neo-Nirvana trio Everclear, Sparkle and Fade, caught the authentic note of vacant ennui that haunts adolescent America. But the songs on So Much for the Afterglow manage only to present a series of victims, objects of leadman Art Alexakis' confused contempt or peculiarly mopey brand of compassion: the neglectful ne'er-do-well of "Father of Mine"; the people-pleasing nymphet of the first single, "Everything to Everyone"; the two-dimensional "magazine girl" of "Amphetamine." Alexakis seems incapable of irony, depicting these people in a manner that's never less than heavy-handed.
Afterglow is clearly meant to spice up the three-chord roar of Sparkle and its indie predecessor, World of Noise, but the new album is a good deal less adventurous than the band realizes. Adding horns and strings, parodying the Beach Boys and roping in Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers to play organ doesn't address the album's basic problem, which is a dense uniformity of mood that reduces every song's subject to the same raw howl. Even on "Why I Don't Believe in God," a song about the nervous breakdown that Alexakis' mother suffered when he was 8 years old, a Wilco-style banjo and slide guitar fail to disguise the essential monotony of the music.
Two of Afterglow's songs suggest, furthermore, that Alexakis is courting hubris. One is "One'Hit Wonder," about a rock wanna-be selling his soul to "the pretty machine." (So what prompts all those thank-you's to "the good people at Converse, Doc Martens, Columbia Sportswear and BC Ethic" in the liner notes, eh, boys?) The other is the closer, "Like a California King," in which he lambastes a fellow Los Angeles star for wearing his "checkered past/Just like a shining suit of gold." Isn't that precisely what Alexakis is doing? (RS 771)
(Posted: Oct 7, 1997)
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Barney, you missed the mark here man. This is a dark album, filled with sarcasm and self-hatred. Some of the songs sound like Art is singing about himself because he is. The monotonous sound fits the depressing mood. This is by far my favorite album, not just from Everclear, but from anybody.
Jan 18, 2007 01:48:00
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