September 12, 2006
Eleven Seven

Album Review

Art Alexakis always was, for all intents and purposes, Everclear, so the fact that he's the only remaining original member on the group's seventh album Welcome to the Drama Club doesn't really affect the sound of the band all that much: it's still the same melodic grunge that has defined the group since Sparkle and Fade. But where the Everclear on that 1995 debut was a lean power trio, the Everclear on Welcome to the Drama Club is a full-bodied quintet comprised entirely of pros -- and that includes Alexakis, too, who long ago left behind the taut rock & roll that made "Santa Monica" a post-grunge classic. Like the two-part Songs from an American Movie -- the ambitious fourth and fifth album song cycles that derailed Everclear's commercial momentum -- this album finds a rock songwriter with lots of pop ambitions, dressing this record up with multi-tracked harmonies, swirling psychedelia, clavinets borrowed form '70s funk, occasional banjoes, and oodles of organs, and he now has a faceless but crackerjack collection of pros to help execute his plan precisely. This makes Welcome to the Drama Club streamlined and crisp, and sometimes a little bit too orderly for its own good. It lacks both the gut-level attack of his best mid-'90s work and the endearing messiness of his turn-of-the-century concept albums, which means it's not as compelling as the albums made by the original trio, since it never feels as immediate or human as that group. But even if Alexakis' new Everclear feels a little fussy -- a little too fussy for his songs, which display ambition but are always at their best when kept to their simplest -- he still remains an intriguing ball of contradictions with a gift for a hook. He remains leaden with his humor -- the sanctimonious "Hater" might be the worst offender here, but it has stiff competition from the likes of the self-mythologizing "A Shameless Use of Charm" -- but his hooks are still heavy and melodic, which makes Welcome to the Drama Club easy to listen to, even if it is too tidy. At the very least, the album proves that Alexakis is not only a pro, but a survivor: stripped of all his old bandmates and his old label, he's carrying on with music that is a worthy, logical successor to his original music, even if it's not quite as forceful, immediate or memorable.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Under the Western Stars
  2. Now
  3. Shine
  4. Hater
  5. The Drama King
  6. Glorious
  7. Taste of Hell
  8. Portland Rain
  9. A Shameless Use of Charm
  10. Clean
  11. Broken
  12. Your Arizona Room
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