By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Songs from an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile
POOR ART ALEXAKIS. Rock's most famous ex-junkie, son of a deadbeat dad, is now feeling the sting of his own marital breakup and separation from his young daughter. Lucky for Everclear fans, Alexakis has channeled the pain of his personal life into a public project. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the results, entitled Songs From an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile, might well be coming soon to a radio near you.
On Vol. One, Alexakis and his bandmates reinvent the Novocain of their troubled childhoods: 1970s pop music. If Alexakis fears that this album, a sort of "Saturday Night" at the "Car Wash" "Up on Cripple Creek" in my "Chevy Van" with "Beth," might strike some as too soft and poppy, it certainly hasn't given him any pause. After all, following the bonus-baby triumph of Sparkle and Fade and the equal success of So Much for the Afterglow (which avoided the tumble into the cutout bins that have claimed many sophomore-effort alternaflops), the commercial rockscape is Alexakis's back yard.
Consequently, musical self-indulgence runs rampant even as Alexakis runs at the mouth. "Annabella's Song," a maudlin lullaby for Art's daughter, features an orchestra conducted by Rat Pack bigwig Mort Lindsey. "Here We Go Again" makes liberal use of early hip-hop scratching and samples and the phrase "back in the day" to remind us of Alexakis's roots as a scared white boy in a black neighborhood. An odd attempt to reclaim the band's druggie cred, "Learning How to Smile," employs a beat primed and ready for Dance Party USA. Other numbers offer an idea of what would happen if Beck spent some time in a trailer in Los Feliz with an underage junkie before joining Sugar Ray on a club tour.
For fans finding Vol. One a little too roller-disco, Songs From an American Movie, Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude (due in November) promises a return to the harder, tougher Everclear. But for now they're smiling without showing their teeth. Perhaps a little crybaby bubble gum is just what the band needed. But the rest of us have needs too, y'know.