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Everclear, ‘Slow Motion Daydream’ (Capitol)

If you were taking an undergraduate class on the music of Everclear, you would eventually come to two conclusions. The first is that you’re probably never going to get a job. The second is that Art Alexakis is a storyteller in the tradition of Garrison Keillor, Spalding Gray, and that dude from Puddle of Mudd. The finest Everclear songs–“Santa Monica,” “A.M. Radio,” “Father ofMine,” and maybe six or seven others–are hyper-specific first-person narratives. It’s impossible to think that Alexakis’ songs can (or should) apply to anyone else, because they aren’t metaphors at all. That might seem like a complaint, but it’s actually a compliment, since specifically personal art is always a bunch of lies (and lies are what creativity really is).

On Slow Motion Daydream, Alexakis best displays his craft on “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom,” in which he describes the plight of formerly naughty girls who got “gang-banged in the bathroom” at their high-school proms but now drive their bratty suburban kids to Republican fundraisers. Musically, Everclear sound almost exactly the same as when they signed with Capitol in 1995: punk, profoundly polished. But the details Alexakis sprinkles into the mix keep things interesting; he knows how to write sentences people will remember. The divorce-trauma exorcism “TV Show” breaks no ground content-wise, but lines like “I drive around in the neighborhood /I wanna lose my house” are both novelistically vivid and heart-tuggingly childlike.

Sadly, aside from the overdriven Weezer metal of “Blackjack,” there’s not a preponderance of skull-pumping power on Slow Motion Daydream–mid-tempo rockers rule the day. And while some of Alexakis’ attempts at social criticism make Michael Moore look like the definition of subtlety, Alexakis’ bullshit is mostly evocative and mature (and even when it isn’t, it’s still catchy). Like most Everclear records, this is a solid, well-constructed testament to the healing power of crankiness. And that’s closer to greatness than most bands that try to seem interesting by telling you how sad they used to be.