Lovingly Panned By B. Jone

Though Everclear’s new album isn’t due until next month, Exotic was able to get its paws on an advance – that should teach those boys over at The Rocket to leave the windows unlocked. And in summary: So Much for the Afterglow sounds a lot like, well… Everclear...

Our Great White Hope’s story begins with a young Art Alexakis trying to claw his way through life growing up in a Los Angeles housing project. In the process, he was sexually abused at age nine and had an early introduction to drugs. At the age of 12 he had the unsettling experience of confronting his older brother’s overdose. But by no means did the loss sober him up. Quite the opposite. Alexakis indulged. And got a guitar at the age of 14. Citing influences from Rush to AC/DC, it was the Ramones that sparked his musical flame. On his own and as a roadie for a punk band at age 16, Alexakis dodged the law and revolved through several garage bands, eventually retreating to the comfort of his mother and the loving arms of cocaine. A near O.D. prompted him to rid his mind and body of mind-redecorators and focus on music. His first real band, Shaking Brave, was a homage to the cowpunk of X. Next came the noisy Kill Joy Combo, “which was basically me and a bass player and a drum machine trying to be Big Black,” he admits. Relocating to San Francisco, the break came in the form of Colorfinger – but when management turned sour and Alexakis learned that the woman he fell for while on tour, Jennifer Dodson, was pregnant, the two relocated to Portland to raise his beloved Anabella.

An ad in The Rocket led to the creation of Everclear in 1992. The trio stirred up a sizable roar, eventually choosing Portland’s own Tim/Kerr to release their full-length introduction, World of Noise, which sold 3,500 copies on its first lap. Dues were earned, paid, and deals were done. Capitol won the battle and released the ballistic Sparkle and Fade in ’95.

However, publicity blitz seemed to backfire through overexposure and the revelations that, possibly, Alexakis was not exactly saintly. Admitting to being “an angry person with tendencies towards violence” his arrest for domestic violence clouded his image and approval rating. And with due cause.

Former neighbors tell tales of heated disputes that ended in physical violence on more than one occasion. But Alexakis claims there was only an isolated event that he deeply regrets and used as a learning experience and a catalyst for counseling. Maybe so. But his controlling, volatile nature is well known in the industry and throughout this town – virtually every wait-person and former associate has a tale to tell. Case in point: Frogpond. Alexakis took a shine to the quirky quartet and agreed to serve as their producer. As the story goes, when he learned that one of the obstacles the band faced was a studio-quality guitar, he laid down $1,200 to remedy the problem. After their debut, Count to Ten, was released he congratulated them by sending a bill for the purchase. The whole affair left such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth that their label, Tristar Music, made it clear that they wanted to distance themselves from Alexakis. You must have to wreak some serious damage to convince all involved that it’s best to not mention that the project’s producer was the reigning king of the alternarock hill.

And now he’s returned with an effort that may as well have been titled Sparkle and Fade…Again.

So Much for the Afterglow’s beginning, title track, gently takes off via sparce, hymnal street-corner harmonizing before Alexakis bursts in and the band’s trademark in-your-face guitars match his energy, doing battle as our narrator lets us in on his confessions about a “Guess the honeymoon’s over” relationship. It’s classic Everclear: an insurgent, swirling caldron of pop infused with just enough gritty punk angst to make it grunge. Or “grungegoisie,” as one local scenster deems their fare.

The guitar intro to the following “Everything to Everyone” is so similar to that of “You Make me Feel Like a Whore” that you’ll likely check the track listing to see who did the remix. But eventually it becomes its own type of messy hypnotic pop that Peter Wolf was so adept at churning out. A ’50s sound-bite admonishing the benefits of medication for those who cannot achieve relaxation sets the stage for “Ataraxia (Media Intro).” Basically, it’s a catchy ditty that reiterates the tired “I don’t want to be normal like you” anthem of our bitterly lost generation. But ultimately, it’s a self-aggrandizing bit that conjures images of Alexakis wearing one of those (upside-down) “Why be normal” buttons that were the rage in ’83.

So Much for the Afterglow’s 13 tracks (14 if you count the barely hidden number which starts off with party sound, develops into a pulsating piece of pop that has Alexakis repeatedly chiming “I will be hating you for Christmas”) continue down the path the band has already blazed. Essentially, if you are one of the converted, you will rejoice. If your ears and brain are in the other camp, you will find little reason to swing to the other side.

Disconcertingly, about the only track to break any new ground is the raw, grinding instrumental “El Distorto de Melodica.” While some might say “that’s because he kept his mouth shut,” Alexakis’ agility at inflecting the utmost out of a tale is actually his strongest suit. Yes, he pens extremely lively tunes, but he’s a master storyteller at heart. And he uses his tool, his signature elastic cords, to the hilt. If he wasn’t busy being a rock star, Alexakis might do well narrating Homeric epics for audio-book clubs.

Indeed, they’d probably just be more stories about how pissed-off he is at the myriad ways that the world has done him wrong. But since a matured audience would quickly tire of his pity parties, he’ll have to remain content stoking the fires of alienation and rebellion that burn red-hot in the hearts of adolescents everywhere. And the kids will likely keep him as their king.

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