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This Year's Nirvana?
Kerrang, March 9, 1996

By Paul Brannigan

Sparkle And Fade

The story so far...three-piece group from America's North-West fronted by blond lead singer record debut album for next to nothing, get signed to a major label, gig incessantly and draw a huge audience for their songs of pain, anger and confusion. Sounds familiar? It should. It's the story of Nirvana...and it's also the story of Everclear, the latest rock group to tear up the American charts. The Nirvana comparison is a bit obvious and unfair, but not since Kurt Cobain's trio has a band made such a basic formula so affecting, passionate and strong.

Everclear's debut "World Of Noise" is probably the greatest debut album you've never heard, an intense, nervy bundle of soul-wrenching anthems. "Sparkle And Fade" is even better. The tunes are simple and direct, the lyrics confessional, naked and vulnerable. Like Kurt Cobain, Everclear's Art Alexakis is a tremendous frontman wielding a dangerously addictive guitar and a sackful of deliciously bruised melodies. Art is a true survivor, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who has tasted much personal tragedy en route to the US Top 30. Yet there is no sense of Art as a victim: every song is uplifting and defiant, a hoarse shout of "do your worst, pal".

"Sparkle And Fade" is set amidst the twitching curtains and whispered innuendo of smalltown America. The songs flit between punk, grunge and electric folk-rock, united through Art's hoarse, aching vocals and raw, cutting guitar. Often the tunes consist of just a couple of riffs, but the band's inspired dynamism keeps everything fresh and powerful. Greg Eklund's super-fired drumming gives the elastic riffing of "The Twistinside" and the Pixies-esque adrenaline shot "Chemical Smile" irresistable momentum, while "Heartspark Dollarsign" gives Art and bassist Craig Montoya the opportunity to throw bouncing guitar harmonies at one another. Whether whispering or roaring, these songs are wired straight to your heart.

Lyrically, this is an amazingly wide open album. "Heroin Girl" recounts the tragic tale of a dead lover, "just another overdose" to a callous policeman. "Pale Green Stars", smothered in open mouthed electric kisses, is a tale of a crumbling relationship, rendered in such poignant terms that you feel embarrassed for intruding upon the pain. "Strawberry" is a stark acoustic strum, Art relating his descent into a drugs hell with the simple admission: "Yes, I guess I fucked up again". "Santa Monica' and "Summerland" revive the great American new frontier tradition, our heroes shaking the past's dust from their feet and driving off into the sunset yearning for a brighter tomorrow.

And for Everclear, the future will be dazzling. "Sparkle And Fade" is a beautiful, slamming and stirring album.