I’ve always liked Everclear (the band). Even though I couldn’t relate personally to Art Alexakis’ moody lyrics about divorce, abandonment, and substance abuse, he wrote some catchy stuff. The Portland-area band definitely had a lot of success in the mid to late 1990s with hits such as Santa Monica, I Will Buy You A New Life, Father of Mine, and Wonderful. All of these are included on this album in new, different forms.
Eventually, though, the band's songs became a bit stale, as Alexakis knows a lot about alcoholism, divorce, and family, but that’s pretty much all he wrote about. When Greg Eklund (drums) and Craig Montoya (bass) ‘quit’ the band, I basically wrote it off from then on, as it was left to Art and a bunch of hired guns. The new incantation of Everclear released an album called Welcome to the Drama Club and a covers album (The Vegas Years). Both were pretty meh in my opinion, more self-indulgent Alexakis solo records than anything else.
Well, this week they’re releasing a ‘new’ album called In a Different Light, in which Art and friends re-recorded some classic Everclear tunes with a more ‘stripped-down’ sound. There are also two new songs included, just to keep things fresh.
Re-recording your own songs seems somewhat pointless, but it does have the capacity to be at least entertaining to see how they sound now as opposed to how they did in their normal version.
Well, the old tunes that they re-recorded for this record sound pretty much just like the originals, for the most part. Wonderful, the big hit off of Songs from an American Movie Vol. 1, has a nice new acoustic sound, without some of the background vocals that gave the original so much life and energy. The guitars in the new Wonderful almost have a country twang, which is a fresh new take on the tune.
Everything to Everyone is also a highlight. While not nearly as good as the original (of course), the re-imagining has some nice piano flowing in the background and overall its more subdued sound fits well.
The new songs, At the End of the Day and Here Comes the Darkness, are alright, but seeing them among the other classic Everclear tunes really makes them stand out in terms of how they don’t stack up to those songs. Everclear wrote some of the best late 1990s alternative songs out there, so that’s a hard act to follow.
Father of Mine has really been stripped down, with some nice acoustic guitar accompanying Alexakis’ voice, which is always emotive and earnest. The guitar solo is basically the same as it is in the electric version of the song. The new version of Father of Mine is a nice spin on it, even if it’s not a whole lot different.
Rock Star 2.0 is alright, but almost exactly the same as the original, just with quieter guitars. I think they should have chosen a different song to re-record instead of this one. I think it would have been nice to hear new versions of Heartspark Dollarsign or Normal Like You, but whatever.
Learning How to Smile was already pretty stripped down in its original state, but the new one is great. The smooth acoustic guitars and Art’s new take on the vocals are different but appropriate.
I have a feeling the band chose to release an album like this because Art has tired of creating whole albums’ worth of new music. Considering how this new version of Everclear has only released one real album of new music out of three releases, I think Everclear might be winding down creatively, since the releases they’ve had the past few years are so Art-centered. Even the album cover for this record implies that: it’s just Art, no band in sight. I understand why that’s the case, though, since he is and has always been the focal point and main songwriter.
In a Different Light is a respectable release by a band that I consider one of my favorite 1990’s bands. Art and friends have paid a tasteful homage to some of the songs that made the original Everclear so successful. Now that the band’s career is winding down, a release like this makes sense. If this is the last release Everclear has as a band, I’m fine with that, as it’d be a great way to go out. Art can then focus on touring with his acoustic stuff.
Check this out if you like Everclear and nice, subdued acoustically-driven guitar music.
Oh, and it’ll help if you are familiar with divorce and substance abuse.