Moving Up the Ladder, to Cheers and Lingerie
New York Times, February 20, 1996
By Neil Strauss
In the last year and a half, Everclear has rapidly been climbing the
club ladder in Manhattan, moving from a near-empty after-midnight slot at
CBGB to a well-attended show for a half-distracted, half-enthusiastic
audience at the Westbeth Theater to Sunday night's show at the Academy,
where a sold-out crowd sang along with almost every song and more than a
dozen bras and shirts were thrown on stage.
"What are you going to wear home?" the band's bemused singer and
guitarist, Art Alexakis, asked as the clothes continued to fly.
Though success has come relatively quickly for Everclear, a
Portland, Ore., trio that has released two albums of soulful grunge-rock,
the band is not new to the music industry. Mr. Alexakis used to work at
several small record companies in addition to running his own label. He
has a wife, a child and a history or substance abuse, which he says he
overcame a decade ago.
All of this adds up to a lot of experience, imbuing Everclear's
songs, which often seem generic and forgettable at first listen, with
depth and vitality.
Though many of Mr. Alexakis's songs are filled with the usual grunge
lyrics about heroin and angst, there is a strong sense of family and
home. His music, while indebted to punk and alternative rock, has also
been influenced by folk and southern rock.
Mr. Alexakis opened the show on stage alone, strumming and singing
"Strawberry", about heroin recidivism, before turning up the distortion
for the chicken-scratch guitar riff of "Electra Made Me Blind."
He was joined by Craig Montoya, who aggressively strummed and
pounded his bass as if it were a stubborn rhythm guitar, and Greg Eklund,
who often turned songs into anthems by using well-placed drum rolls and
waiting until after the first verse to start playing.
In the songs Everclear performed from its first album, "World of
Noise," the band sang of finding pride in the depths of despair ("Loser
Makes Good", "Your Genius Hands").
But in the songs from its new album, "Sparkle and Fade" (Capitol),
it searched for ways to get out and stay out of life's black holes.
"Forget about our jobs at the record store," Mr. Alexakis sang in his
rich, hoarse voice in "Summerland." "Forget about all the losers that we
know. Forget about all the memories that keep you down."
In its encore, Everclear exposed the not-very-alternative roots of
its music, performing versions of Tom Petty's "American Girl" and AC/DC's
"Sin City." Though the band was energetic, it also showed signs of
touring wear and tear. Throughout the show, Mr. Eklund had trouble
staying in time and Mr. Alexakis constantly moved his head away from the
microphone before completing a phrase, rendering its final words