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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Everclear - Return To Santa Monica

Everclear – Return To Santa Monica
2011, Cleopatra Records

Through it all, Art Alexakis just keeps going.  His band, Everclear is on its third lineup, with the only original remaining member being Alexakis himself.  The Portland, Oregon band, formed in 1992, were darlings of the alternative rock scene throughout the 1990’s, leaders of the pop-based rock response to the grunge sound coming out of Seattle.  There has been a trend in the last few years of bands re-recording their hits, as aging acts separate from the major label apparatus have found a way to regain control of their catalog for licensing.  Everclear jumps on the bandwagon today with Return To Santa Monica.

The up side to such a move is it improves a band’s ability to generate income; for fans it can be an opportunity to hear a fresher version of a favorite hit or three.  Everclear does right by the fans with Return To Santa Monica, offering up a nearly live sounding collection of reborn hits from their catalog.  “Santa Monica”, “I Will Buy You A New Life”, “Father Of Mine” and “AM Radio” are particularly vibrant.  “Unemployed Boyfriend” seems even better than it did the first time around, though whether this is due to a change in the rendition or a change in the times it uncertain.  Everclear rounds out the remakes with “Wonderful” and “Everything To Everyone”.

Perhaps the biggest treats for fans, however, are the cover songs spread throughout the album.  The remake of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” is classic, and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” gets a new look.  Death Cab For Cuties “I Will Follow You Out Of The Dark” is among the highlights on the disc, as is the closing number, Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”.  The only misfire on the entire album is a somewhat messy cover of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, which Alexakis muddles his way through on, showing neither the vocal range nor (here, at least) the sense of personality to pull this tune off.

These sorts of collections are as much for financial gain of the artist (as opposed to a label) as they are for fans.  Sometimes such collections can be ill-gotten nightmares, but Everclear manages to pull the whole thing off with a bit of panache.  The album plays like an intimate live show, with even the production values bending in that direction.  So instead of a boring retread of hits and covers you know, listeners get a quality, live-in-studio set of songs that will have you tapping your toes and remembering the 1990’s fondly.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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