Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rock From The Same Trio Who Made The Last Album That Sounded Like This: Songs From An American Movie Vol. Two: Good Time For A Bad Attitude

The Good: Decent Lyrics, I like the style/sound
The Bad: Repetitive music, Does not say anything new
The Basics: In a close call, Everclear's Vol. Two is thematically, but not musically, diverse and worth a listen, if not a buy.

There are few musical groups or musical artists that I can think of that I only want their Greatest Hits from. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tina Turner remain the only artists in my collection that I have only the Best of album - and Turner's did not much impress me - though I am open to listening to more of their albums to see if anything grabs me. However, Everclear makes a strong argument for a band producing only a greatest hits album and calling it quits already. Sure, Everclear is my current artist of the month with reviews of “Wonderful” (here!) and So Much For The Afterglow (here!) already written, but the band is not the most diverse.

I do not write this to insult Everclear, but when one listens to their albums, the weakness of their band is revealed quite plainly, which does not happen with their singles. When I hear Everclear on the radio, I don't switch channels - though "Wonderful" did get old when it was in maximum rotation a few years back. My conclusion on Everclear's future comes from listening Songs From An American Movie Vol. Two: Good Time For A Bad Attitude.

Vol. Two (as I shall refer to it for the remainder of the review) is a fairly solid rock album from the trio Everclear, which is Art Alexakis, Craig Montoya, and Greg Eklund. Alexakis wrote all twelve songs on the album and there is only one guest musician on the album: James Beaton, who plays keyboards on a few of the tracks.

Essentially, though, this is a group that is fairly tight, with guitars, bass and drums to supplement the three men singing. That's the real weakness here. Throughout Vol. Two there is not much in the way of musical variety. Almost all of the songs have fast guitars, pounding drums and Art Alexakis bleating to the audience. Track after track, the songs sound so similar to one another.

Unfortunately, some of the songs sound like other songs from Everclear, too. Part of the reason I suspect I enjoy "Misery Whip" so much is that it sounds a lot like Everclear's first single hit "Santa Monica." Part of the reason most Everclear's songs sound so much like one another, in addition to the simple musical limitations that come with three musical instruments, is in the vocals and I would like to say I like the vocals.

Art Alexakis is easily one of the most articulate singers in rock and roll. Seriously. One of the nicest things about listening to Everclear is that the lyrics are insanely easy to understand, which is not true of most bands that sound like, well, garage bands. Everclear sounds like a garage band that refuses to bury the singing. As a result, Alexakis's voice is front and center every single song, singing at a pace that is fairly consistent throughout Vol. Two. This is truly only a problem in that it contributes heavily to each track sounding similar to one another and to other Everclear songs.

But no matter how similar the tracks sound to one another, Everclear has a decent sound. Because Alexakis dominates the sound, it's a distinctive voice and sound for the band and I like it. It is rock and roll that is articulate, that is in existence with the intent to say something and in that regard, the group succeeds.

This goes back to Alexakis writing the songs he is singing. His poetry is poetic when he wants it to be and some of it is remarkably nice. The distinctive track in this regard is the ballad "The Good Witch of the North" which is romantic and surprisingly charming for a group usually thrashing on their guitars and banging on their drums. Alexakis writes "There has never been a time / When I didn't want to be your boyfriend / There has never been a time / When I didn't want to know your name / Free falling from a work in progress / Free falling from a life on hold / There has never been a time / When I didn't want you . . ." I just think it's a beautiful song and it is completely unexpected.

Actually, I was not planning on recommending this otherwise average album, but that song threw me over. That's not to say I don't like other songs on it. The album opens with a distinctly Everclear "When It All Goes Wrong Again," which capitalizes on the teen angst of the target demographic. And "Misery Whip," a satire on s/m or relationships others do not understand, rocks.

But, the pop-track "Rock Star" seems silly without being smart enough to be tongue in cheek or presented with the bravado and arrogance of Oasis' declarative "Rock 'N' Roll Star." And by the time "All Fucked Up" comes up on the album, we feel like we've heard all Everclear has to offer.

So, ultimately this is a razor decision and should Everclear ever release a Best of album that includes "Misery Whip" and "The Good Witch of the North," I will likely change this to a "not recommend." Until then, this is a rock album with good lyrics and a distinctive, if repetitive, sound.

The best track that is distinctly "Everclear" is "Misery Whip," though I think "The Good Witch of the North" is the superlative track on Vol. Two. The worst track is the pointless and silly story song "Babytalk."

For other Artist Of The Month reviews, be sure to check out:
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
Hotter Than July - Stevie Wonder
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the music reviews I have written!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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