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Eleven Seven Music

Nobody ever expected Everclear to rewrite rock history, but the band used to be good at what it did. The band's first couple of albums were full of punk-lite anthems with catchy hooks, grungy guitars and vaguely edgy lyrics alternately about singer Art Alexakis' absentee dad and about the overdoses of his friends and lovers.

Radio loved it and Everclear went into heavy rotation on bar patios starting in the summer of 1995, providing a tolerable alternative to Hootie and The Blowfish and the Dave Matthews Band. It seemed if they could just keep up the good work leading grunge's second wave, they were destined for the superstardom Alexakis thought he deserved. Sadly, it seems the band closed that book with its 2004 greatest hits album. Alexakis has dumped the other two guys, their grungy guitars and any sense of edginess. They were replaced by four new guys and 12 pieces of uninspired power pop.

Alexakis is hyping his new sound as an homage to his early musical loves, but the Cheap Trick and Big Star territory has long been heavily mined. The new Everclear sound is more like a poor man's Fountains of Wayne or a sober man's Nada Surf. My first run through this album was as background noise while working on other projects. The profane spoken-work intro and relentless cowbell of "Hater"
caught my ear as a particularly low point on a rather dull album. Only later did I learn this was the first single and it's on the new Van Wilder soundtrack.

At least the song is attention-getting, if for the wrong reasons. The rest of the album, though not awful, is just dull and mediocre. The main theme of the album seems to be rejecting hate and taking a positive look at the world. "Now" is about his recovery from a year of "Mexican freefall." "Under the Western Stars" has something to do with sex, log cabins and rejection but it ends with a triumphant "I can do anything." Sadly, Alexakis seemed better when he was a hater.

Other tracks don't even really have a narrative. "Shine" mostly just repeats "Shine, ... Open up and show the freak inside," leaving me picturing some Pixar penguins dancing to the song.

If that weren't bad enough, the album seems to be endless. After the 12th overly long track is a minute of silence, then not one, but two of the most pointless and annoying bonus tracks since early Pearl Jam. First, a child seems to be groaning, then incoherently babbling and repeating "I don't like the way that you act to me that night." Finally, the band rips into another giddy power pop number.

- Steve Graham

Track Listing:
1. Under the Western Stars
2. Now
3. Shine
4. Hater
5. Drama King
6. Glorious
7. Taste of Hell
8. Portland Rain
9. Shameless Use of Charm
10. Clean
11. Broken
12. Your Arizona Room

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