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“Everclear: As White Trash as My Upbringing Was”

I can just hear Art Alexakis offering some resigned ’90s-slacker-boy defense of all these “anniversary tours” the band had been doing, one in 2015 for Sparkle and Fade and one this year (in which they surprisingly hit my hometown of South Bend, IN) for So Much for the Afterglow: the usual bit about how well rock music is stupid and cathartic anyways (though still better than disco, if you remember those t shirts), and based on the ravenous, primal urge to irreversibly alter one’s own existence through a desperation-filled caterwaul. Certainly, that’s what Everclear started as, even if they didn’t end that way too. Compellingly, debut album World of Noise lacks direction and purpose the same way the early Soundgarden does, as compared to eventual anthems like “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.”
They crawled out that hole of ennui they started in — and who’s to say why, it’s just the case of a couple of crabs making it out of the big slopping bucket or the “cement mixer” as Liars called the capitalistic work force of our country [1].
I come from a town where people say things like “Here’s to not sweatin’ the petty sh**, but pettin’ the sweaty sh**.” One bar I heard that in is closed now, and used to offer lavish corners for customers to pi** in during store hours, in case they’d all of a sudden become paraplegic and couldn’t walk to the bathroom. Lots of bouts of muscular dystrophy growing up in my town.
Everclear was big for me, but I was in high school, around a lot of people who would end up moving to New York or LA, taking careers in Law, Enviro. Philosophy or any of such sundry. I used to rock a t shirt of them, but I also knew people who hate them, or didn’t GET them. These were the people with not quite as much angst in them, whose parents perhaps weren’t divorced, who still saw things in terms of the verbal realm encompassed by society itself.
Everclear, like all great punk music (and this goes whether you see them as punk or not) took that realm and turned it on its side, singing about a “welfare Christmas” and “amphetamines,” and maybe, just maybe, teaching us the beauty of one hopeless moment when your girl is staring listlessly out the window, you’re at the edge of your sanity and the sun reflects off your kid’s tele-tubby toy the way it never has before. Did they make the profane into the sacred? I believe so, ‘cause I’m talkin’ about ‘em.
But I broached this on facebook: critics have way underrated their last two albums. On DD itself I ranked Black is the New Black in my Top 20, almost not even noticing whether it had any songs on it (which to an extent it does) but more than anything, taking in, imbibing that SOUND — that wall of fearsome, physical, sonic brutality which… if the current populace is any indication, and the looks I get on the street, a lot of us should be able to. Actually, my town was ranked the third angriest city in the nation. Still, people think it’s “uncool” to be poor there. It might be dangerous, but thanks to Everclear, I’ll never think it’s uncool again.
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[1] “The Garden Was Crowded and Outside,” from 2001 debut album They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top

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