Art Alexakis, the main creative force in Everclear, had about the worst adolescence one could imagine, and that pain has been injected like heroin into every album since the group's 1994 mega-hit, Sparkle and Fade. Alexakis, now forty, doesn't stray much from the sarcastic moody blend of rock that has come to typify all that is Everclear on their latest album, Slow Motion Daydream.
Maybe its because of Alexakis's age that Slow Motion Daydream sounds like a mid-life crisis album. Everclear veers between the harshest punk they've played in years, "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom," to heartfelt, meaningful songs backed with lush orchestration. Songs like "TV Show" and the moody "New York Times" find Alexakis using his voice as an instrument rather than a bullhorn with surprisingly emotional results.
"You need to remember, life is always getting better," sings Alexakis, his voice filled with hope rather than sarcasm, which is puzzling considering Everclear's record of songs filled with dysfunctional venom. On 1997's "So Much For the "Afterglow," Alexakis would never have written such a line. Truly, the themes of Slow Motion Daydream are much more lighthearted than heavy-handed and are unquestionably less cynical.
Everclear used to be all about exorcising childhood demons, decrying deadbeat dads and mourning broken homes, but now the focus has shifted from the problem to the solution. Obviously, Alexakis is a happier man than he was as little as five years ago, and it shows in nearly every track on this new album.
Alexakis and Everclear can afford to be the softies they are becoming because of the relevancy and maturity of their songs. Alexakis would sound foolish ranting about wild parties and cosmopolitan drugs; he's a dad and a former addict.
Alexakis's lyrics and music reflect his growth from punk rocker to punk father, a transition that has had its bumps. This is seen in Songs from an American Movie, Pt. 1, but his transition now seems to be complete.
That being said, Everclear isnt completely de-clawed. Songs like Blackjack and I Want To Die a Beautiful Death are gritty stompers that attack everything from the government to depression. The riffs may be simpler than Dookie era Green Day, but Alexakis injects a Pacific Northwest grunginess into each chord, giving it a vibrance and color lacking in much of todays pop punk.
They could still beat their message into your head with thumping bass and screaming guitar, but Everclears lyricism and musical skill manage to outshine even the dullest of chord progressions.
Slow Motion Daydream is an album that truly defies categorization among its genre. Everclear can roar like a jukebox on a Friday night, but the inclusion of strings and horns into many of their slower songs move them into adult contemporary territory.
Nowadays, Everclear writes more about hope and redemption than overdoses and getting even. Really, this is what anyone would expect from a punk rock band that has seen everything and lived to tell the tale.
Everclear is old enough to get serious, but young enough to rock you all night long.