Hungry and Hollow

Columns

Downtime

An Everclear Expose'

An Everclear Expose'
Volume One: Colorfinger
by Brett Paragow

     I think I can trace the exact moment I became an Everclear fan to the first time I put Sparkle and Fade in my Aiwa stereo. After hearing Heroin Girl on a local radio station, I had finally bought the album, literally just prior to Santa Monica's upgrade to Buzz Clip status. As a twelve year old, I'd never really gotten much into music before, much less become attached to a band, but there was something about this music, something, pardon the expression, that was, to me, extraordinary. There was a distinct "you and me
vs. the world" quality to Art's lyrics that I think attracted me, as I'm sure many other then-teenagers, to the band. Eventually, the album became a staple in my stereo, and, still without a computer, at a local record store, I found and purchased a copy of World of Noise, half expecting the worst, half hoping for the best. At first, only live standards like Loser Makes Good and Fire Maple Song were intriguing to me, but slowly but surely, similar to the way other albums, like Radiohead's OK Computer grew on me, World of Noise quickly became a favorite of mine. Skip ahead five plus years, numerous concerts, three more albums, several more modern rock/Top 40
hits, countless import singles, EPs, compilations, soundtrack appearances, previous band releases, bootlegs, and you may be beginning to understand my connection to Everclear.

     Put it this way, it's hard to imagine myself ever picking up a guitar if I hadn't bought Sparkle and Fade in that Long Island area Tower Records a little over six years ago. Sure, I may be overdramatizing this, and it's highly likely I have/may be, but the influence Art has had on my life is truly remarkable. Nevertheless, after seeing on E-groups that my list, Downtime, was created over 850 days ago, I began to wax nostalgic in a way for Everclear, perhaps more specifically Art Alexakis, and decided to write this little exposé of sorts about, in my most humble opinion, the best rock band still currently making music. As overblown as that last statement sounds, please allow me to back it up. Also keep in mind that I'm trying to be as objectively nonbiased as possible, though that's very difficult for me. Further keep in mind that much of my analysis could very well be a) wrong, b) only applicable to me, or c) ridiculously ludicrously inappropriately unnecessary.

     I'll start in chronological order, beginning, of course with Colorfinger's Deep in the Heart of the Beast in the Sun, arguably, with a heavy emphasis on arguably, Art's best album ever. I received a burned copy of the album from a friend on White-Lightning (by this point I'd finally gotten a computer with online capabilities), about two or three weeks after So Much for the Afterglow's release in October of 1997. So, to be perfectly fair, in those pre-Napster days, I'd yet to hear any of the songs outside of the context of the full recording, and had actually been exposed to Culver Palms through So Much for the Afterglow first. The album instantly struck me as ingenious. Take a look at a song like Kill the Sun, the album's lead track, which begins with a rabid bassline and continues through an unconscionably poignant pictorial of drug abuse through the reflective eyes of the abuser. The only comparison I could draw would be to the Rolling Stones' Dead Flowers, incidentally a song that another pre-Everclear Art band, Shakin' Brave covered, a track which appears on the now-infamous Neverclear bootleg. Jagger may be writing of an experience on heroin rather than a drawback to addiction, as evidenced by references to luxury, (e.g. a "silk upholstered chair," "rich folks...") The differences are still relatively subtle between the two songs, however. Whereas, Mick Jagger sang of being "in [his] basement room, with a needle and a spoon and another girl to take [his] pain away," perhaps implying that the worst is over, Art takes a different view, instead portraying the girl, whatever, if any, euphemism that may imply, as something he's already lost. "I remember waking up at 3 PM in a thrashed bedroom/sharp with needles and knives/I reach for the crutches that keep in motion/vague memories that keep me alive/like when she used to call me baby." Once again, where Jagger looks optimistically on drug abuse, perhaps because he may have still been a user at the time of the song's writing, Art looks down on addiction, perhaps as a result of certain now well-documented previous experiences. As a burgeoning singer/songwriter of sorts myself, I find a lyric like "Yes, I got sunshine/It's a suicide song in the back of my mind/Pure white evil wrapped around my eyes" to be indescribably brilliant. I'd die happy if I could write a song so meaningful and direct, yet not cornily so, as Art can/frequently has about such PSA-worthy issues as drug addiction, AIDS and suicide (more on those later.) The rest of the album cruises along from there, careening through topics from a "country girl" turned sex victim (Eleanor Young) to a whore (Carolea) to a mother's nervous breakdown (Culver Palms) and how a family copes with a brother/son/role model's drug overdose (13 Years.) Art's lyrical penchant for storytelling is in top form throughout DITHOTBITS, perhaps more so than on any Everclear album. The album is also perhaps Art's most metaphorical to date, with enough figurative language to make a high school English teacher go nuts with glee. Art's musical influences, which I'll inevitably explore when I get to Learning How to Smile, are in full effect on Separation, with both a Led Zeppelin reference and an X reference each getting thrown into the mix, all in a seemingly unrelated plea from Art to a girlfriend for a breakup. Later on, in the far from subtlety titled Kill Jerry Garcia, Art namechecks some more musical giants, including Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin and, quite obviously, the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. But back to the album's middle portion, with songs like The Color Pit and Chucklehead's Laments, Art once again explores previously, at least to me, unexplored elements of drug addiction, frequently using romance as a metaphor for perhaps a greater evil. Come to think of it, The Color Pit may be a letter of sorts to drug addiction in general, a personification to end all personifications, or I could just be getting off on another extensive tangent, the latter of which is most likely. Chucklehead's is perhaps Art's most visually sexual song, comparable to some extent to My Sexual Life simply for its explicit use of non-innuendo. Art sings of a violent love, a violent sex, "a crippled man inside your mind," "broken body and a misshaped head," "the unclean smell of bitter sweat" and perhaps most blatantly, "I'm just the man who holds your glance in violence..." It's also perhaps a country rock version of The Police's "Every Breath You Take;" equally sinister and equally sardonic in its chronicle of a guy who seems obsessed with a girl. Sting, pre-Puff Daddy's rendition, in one of the creepiest Top Ten hits of all time, sings "Every breath you take, Every move you make...I'll be watching you..." Analyze that for a second; that's pretty freakin' creepy; almost like a stalker's journal entries, a promise from the obsessed to the "obsessee" to continue interest for as long as it takes, whatever it may be. In Chucklehead's Laments, Art sings, "Wherever you go/You'll know my name...know who I am/ I'm the one you don't want to know/I'm the man inside every man/I'm waiting patiently and watching." Static is the perfect example of a song that's so out there in its brilliance, I'm at a loss of words to describe it, certainly one of Art's most underrated songs of storytelling. Genius, just pure genius. Then, never one to rest completely on his past drug addiction laurels in songwriting, Art ends the album with two tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek tracks, ?(The Gay Bar Song) and Kill Jerry Garcia. As big a stretch as this is, the first time I heard ?The Gay Bar Song, I was instantly reminded of Reel Big Fish's She Has A Girlfriend Now. And what to say about Kill Jerry Garcia, a song that in some aspects could have even been written by Weird Al Yankovic, of all the names I thought I could incorporate in this treatise. Each is a great song, but perhaps their humor detracts from their lyrical genius. The Gay Bar Song, lyrically, feels like it could've been written by Ben Folds, to me, yet another example of Art's extreme versatility in songwriting. Who else could sing a line like "Baby, wasn't that you last night at the gay bar?" as a chorus to a song whose verses include a line like "Tell me is it true that heroin illuminates the dark?" This wicked sense of humor of Art's doesn't make a real showing on an Everclear record until Good Time for a Bad Attitude, a testament in some respect, to Art's universal appeal. The level of extremes just demonstrated is remarkable, and is another reason why I think Art works on so many levels, the same reason somebody who's never been addicted to drugs can relate to Strawberry, and the same way someone who's parents get along great and live together like The Brady Bunch can identify with Father of Mine, as corny as that last sentence sounded.

Colorfinger - Deep in the Heart of the Beast in the Sun (Shindig 1990)
Lyrics - 9/10
Overall - 8.5/10

Check out the rest H&H's columns section.

1997 - 2006 Hungry & Hollow All Rights Reserved.
All other trademarks are the sole property of their respective owners.
For questions or comments about this site, contact ekeown AT hungryandhollow DOT com