Album: Invisible Stars
In terms of live shows, I’m kind of the Wilt Chamberlain of music. Yup, I’m a music slut. I’ve gotten around, managing to see 10,472 different bands play live sets. However, Everclear definitely helped pop my cherry. During the summer of 1998, the post-grunge power-pop band headlined the annual Jayhawk Music Festival in Lawrence, Kansas alongside Incubus, Wilco, 2 Skinnee J’s, Pharcyde and Reel Big Fish. More importantly to me than the rather impressive lineup put on the stage at Clinton Lake that day was the loss of my live music virginity. In a way, Art Alexakis’s band, regardless of how wrong they were for me, has always had a special place in my heart.
So, like any awkward lover, I spent my days facebook stalking Everclear. I swooned from afar as 4 different singles from So Much For The Afterglow shot up the charts. The album’s title track, “Everything to Everyone,” “I Will Buy You A New Life” and “Father of Mine” cemented what “Santa Monica” had already tried to prove; Alexakis’s shitmess of a life provided the inspiration for a soapbox of unquestionable radio hits. Adding “AM Radio” and a cover of “Brown Eyed Girl” to their catalog, Everclear seemed unstoppable.
Then, they vanished. Due in part to being unsupported by their label, and a shift in the music preference of the charts, Everclear stumbled. Their release of “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” never received the fanfare of their previous hits. To those still paying attention it looked as though Everclear might have stumbled into their swan song with “Slow Motion Daydream.” The next couple albums were rather ignorable and anything but prime. Heartbroken, I had written the band off as dead.
So, when Invisible Stars crossed my desk I was apprehensive to take on the project. Generally unbiased in my reviews, I had no desire to put the flames to the band who had sparked the basis of my entire writing career. There was just something too personal there. However, after one listen I was assured that this would not be necessary. Invisible Stars had not been phoned in. The album is not a cash grab scheme. It is a mirror image reflection of Alexakis’s current pains. It is both raw and honest, running a full gauntlet of emotions. For example, “Wishing” and “I Am Better Without You” both address the unstable and unhealthy relationship often associated with a fear of being alone. Similarly, “Santa Ana Wind” reflects on that time spent alone and the ghosts that linger close of the loves no longer in the picture. Prior to that track, Alexakis discusses the pitfalls and snags of life and their elicited reactions in “Be Careful What You Ask For.” Cut after cut preaches about depression, drug addiction and the lives of broken hearts. The album is littered with what has always made Everclear worth listening to; the balance of clarity and confusion after tragedy.
The thing that seems to make this album special however is the manner in which Alexakis has managed to update the band’s classic sound to make it relevant in today’s market. “Falling In A Good Way” for example mixes Everclear’s classic use of tongue-in-cheek lyrics with a newer stir of moog and synth riffs. This leaves the group in a place that seems somewhat meshed between Motion City Soundtrack and Bowling For Soup instrumentally. However all along, the timeless “So Much For The Afterglow” riffs remain intact. Listeners have no choice but to give the band a nod of respect for managing to walk that often wobbly tightrope of shifting with the times while remaining true to the fans who supported them all along. Alexakis may sometimes credit himself with fucking up his whole life, but he absolutely should pat himself on the back for getting this right. This is because honestly, few bands are able to accomplish that. They either stay past their prime, releasing a string of material that damages their legacy, or they shift into a world in which they’re uncomfortable; failing to be true to themselves or their fans. Thankfully, with Invisible Stars, Everclear has done neither.