Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Indistinct Everclear: Slow Motion Daydream Ended The Original Band.

The Good: One or two tracks sound good
The Bad: Album’s tracks largely blend together, Little that is distinctive, Short.
The Basics: Everclear’s Slow Motion Daydream is hardly the most original or distinctive work by the grunge-pop band.

Everclear is one of those bands I always figured I would like from their “Best Of” album and have little cause to stray from that. The truth is, there are several impressive Everclear songs that do not appear on their ten-year compilation. When I picked up Slow Motion Daydream to listen to, it was with an ear for those tracks that should have appeared on the compilation that I was most interested. So, I was pretty surprised that there were none. “Chrysanthemum” came close, but I realized that it was a take-it-or-leave-it track when I did not find myself humming it or thinking about it whenever it was not on. Unlike other Everclear songs, like “Good Witch Of The North” or “You Make Me Feel Like A Whore,” there are no tracks on Slow Motion Daydream that stand out as worth listening to outside the two that are on Ten Years Gone.

And, frankly, “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” and “The New York Times” are not worthwhile enough to justify buying Slow Motion Daydream.

With only twelve tracks, clocking out at 43:06, Slow Motion Daydream is the final Everclear album to feature Art Alexakis, Craig Montoya, and Greg Eklund. The album was written entirely by the band and all of the lead vocals are presented by Alexakis. All three men perform on their instruments – drums, bass and guitar – and provide backing vocals. Art Alexakis is credited as a co-producer on the album, so it is hard not to say that Slow Motion Daydream is the album the band intended to produce.

Unfortunately, it is not much of an album. Slow Motion Daydream features songs that blend together, melodically flow from one to another and lack a real resonance on their own. In many ways, Slow Motion Daydream sounds just like an Everclear album and that is part of the problem. Murky songs like “Science Fiction” and “Chrysanthemum” are mixed with energetic, but somewhat pointless tracks like “Blackjack” and “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.” The result is that none of the songs truly stand out.

Instrumentally, Slow Motion Daydream seems particularly limited. Alexakis strums his guitar, Craig Montoya supports him with his bass and Eklund bangs on his drums. But they sound pretty much exactly like they have on other albums on Slow Motion Daydream. The trio is limited by their instruments and on Slow Motion Daydream that shows in a way that makes it seemingly impossible for the band to actually do something new.

Slow Motion Daydream is, predictably, dominated on the vocals by Art Alexakis. Alexakis does not strain himself from his clear, mid-range vocals. On Slow Motion Daydream, Alexakis actually sounds bored with what he is singing. On “TV Show,” he lacks any vocal enthusiasm to actually sell the lyrics. Come to think of it, I’m not sure he actually holds any notes longer than two seconds, though he comes close on “TV Show.” In true Everclear/Art Alexakis fashion, though, Alexakis sings every line with perfect clarity, which is one of the nice, distinctive, aspects of Everclear’s music.

Perhaps the real problem with Slow Motion Daydream is that Everclear – and Alexakis – have very little left to say that they have not said before. They create songs that drift between being high (“Sunshine”) and contemplating death (“A Beautiful Life”) and mix them with songs about power and control. In fact, it is virtually impossible not to interpret “Blackjack” as a song about sexual dominance. With its lines “Don't tell me that / You didn't see this coming down / Please don’t say that this / Isn't what you wanted now / Scary John gets his strong arm on / He can break me and make me / Happy with his blackjack”(“Blackjack”), the song seems to be about keeping a partner degraded and in their place by aggressively using sex toys.

Even so, Everclear does find some relevance on Slow Motion Daydream. Written about the September 11, 2001 attacks, “The New York Times” remains relevant even now. With broader themes described with articulate poetry, like, “I want to believe I can learn to make things right / Oh, I want to believe in this world / I want to believe in this life / I want to believe in a world that does not seem real / When I read the New York Times” (“The New York Times”), the song stands out on Slow Motion Daydream.

In typical Everclear fashion, Slow Motion Daydream has its sense of melancholy. On “I Want To Die A Beautiful Death,” Alexakis sings once again about the end of life and the desire to have an impact. It is hard not to empathize when he sings “I don't care / I just want to die pretty / I just want to get lost in the motion / I just want to get lost in my beautiful self / I just want to get lost in the city / I don't want to live forever / I want to die a beautiful death”(“I Want To Die A Beautiful Death”).

Still, it is not enough to sell the listener on Slow Motion Daydream. Slow Motion Daydream lacks a knock-‘em-out single and the album replays over and over again as a form of auditory sludge; nothing stands out. That makes it impossible to recommend.

The best track is “The New York Times,” the low point is the utterly unmemorable “New Blue Champion.”

For other works by Everclear, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Sparkle And Fade
So Much For The Afterglow
Songs From An American Music, Volume One: Learning How To Smile
Songs From An American Movie, Vol. Two: A Good Time For A Bad Attitude
Wonderful (single)
Ten Years Gone: The Best Of Everclear 1994 - 2004
The Best Of Everclear


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

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