I was growing up in Portland when the grunge scene exploded, and I remember feeling like we were almost a part of it. The heart of grunge, of course, was Seattle; at the same time, more melodic alternative rock was coming out of California, and Portland had bands like the Dandy Warhols and Everclear. Everclear never had the artistry or poetry that Nirvana or Pavement developed, but for me the band’s second album, 1995’s Sparkle and Fade, still stands up. It’s a hard, loud and rambunctious rock album, and fun to listen to — despite (and because of) its connection to themes common in grunge music, such as hardcore drug use and fucked-up relationships. Art Alexakis sets the tone on the first track, crying, “Living isn’t a simple thing to me, but I know ways to make it easier.” The album sold well. So Much for the Afterglow (1997) was the jaded followup that sold even better. After that I lost track of the band, and I believe they lost track of themselves.
Everclear is now a quintet, and Alexakis, the lead singer and frontman, is the only remaining original member. It is unclear why Everclear would make In a Different Light, which contains new versions of his band’s old songs. Cynics will see a group of aged rockers looking to continually profit from lost moments of celebrity and artistry; those of a more generous spirit will see a reworking of pop rock songs compiled into a best-of album (even though the band released a greatest-hits album in 2004). Either way, the album is not successful. Musically, the songs, which are now built on acoustic instruments and keyboards, lack the juice and authenticity of the original versions. Alexakis’s aged singing voice is not worth further mention. I suppose it was worth a shot, but it would probably be more noble for Everclear to go quietly into the night.