photo & text by nacrowe
the OREGON-based EVERCLEAR was one of those bands that emerged in the wake of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the early 1990s. their three-piece sound seemed to bridge the gap between those other two famous power trios of the era, NIRVANA and GREEN DAY. that being the case, they came off as a ALTERNATIVE ROCK / POP PUNK hybrid which was interesting but a little problematic in my estimation.
i first heard their debut SPARKLE AND FADE (CAPITOL, 1995) from this older kid that lived across the street from me when my family lived in NIGERIA in the mid 1990s. my father worked for a petroleum company and we were stationed on a company compound just outside of LAGOS. this was pre-internet so the only way of hearing new music was each other's compact disc collections. looking back its odd how radio didnt play a part in my discovering new artists. it was an interesting time and place for sure.
the main elements of EVERCLEAR's sound is their bare-bones power-chord riffage with the earnest, unadorned lyrics of frontman and main songwriter ART ALEXAKIS. especially on songs like "HEROIN GIRL" and "SANTA MONICA" there is a transparent nature to ALEXAKIS' songwriting where the song is very much about what it purports to be about. there isnt any hiding behind clever symbolism or hidden allusions or even metaphor, which for me is both a hallmark and a crutch of his songwriting throughout the years. its not necessarily a bad thing, but there isnt a sense of needing to investigate the lyrics like say KURT COBAIN with a song like "POLLY" or BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG on a track like "HOLIDAY." songwriting-wise i always got the sense of ALEXAKIS being more from the populist KISS school of songwriting where you give the people what they want and dont get fancy with lyrical conceits. this earnest, transparent sensibility also is a reason i probably havent listened to this record in a few years.
but i dont want to be too negative on EVERCLEAR. in the wake of GRUNGE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK there were lots of derivative bands that tried to ape a sound and look that felt forced and inauthentic, and this was not one of those bands. for better or worse, EVERCLEAR were ROCK N ROLL lifers that went to the same HARDCORE shows in the 1980s and discovered INDIE ROCK and underground music in essentially the same scene (different state) as their WASHINGTON STATE counterparts.
they were authentically themselves and SPARKLE AND FADE is a testament to that ethos. definitely worth revisiting and checking out again.