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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 incomprehensible.