Art for Art's Sake

Although it's hard to imagine him offering up anything less than slices of life, So Much for the Afterglow is even more personal and forthright than Sparkle and Fade. While on past albums Alexakis has faced his romantic and chemical demons ("Electra Made Me Blind," "Strawberry Burns"), the new album is centered on songs about his mother's nervous breakdown ("Why I Don't Believe in God") and the absence of his father ("Father of Mine," a Springsteen-worthy missive to a dad who callously hit the bricks when Alexakis was just a kid). Slice-of-life stuff, to be sure, but Alexakis bristles when asked how much of his material is pulled from his own past.

"My songs aren't as autobiographical as you would think," he explains. "It makes me uncomfortable that people think they are. There are people who write all sorts of songs but no one's asking them, 'Well, who is this song about?' There are a couple of autobiographical songs on the new album, and if I came into it cold I would think that 'Father of Mine' and 'Why I Don't Believe In God' were definitely autobiographical. But some of the songs -- like 'Sunflower' -- are things that I just totally made up. But even the things that I make up have touched me somewhere in my life. Either way, I think I know what I'm talking about in my songs, whether it's looking at my daughter and hopefully not having to see her go through the hell that I went through, or looking at my mom having to watch me go through a hell of my own making for so many years and still loving me and being there for me. I don't write songs about what I don't know or about things that haven't touched my life somewhere at some time."

That songwriting edict has little to do with the surreal lyric focus of obscurantist indie titans such as Pavement or Guided by Voices, or the seemingly endless line of grimacing grunge whiners snatched from rock's underbelly in the wake of Nirvana's early-Nineties breakthrough. (Korn, anyone?) And naturally Everclear -- whose first album cost a whopping $400 to make and was issued on an indie before Capitol re-released it in '94 -- has felt the critical sting of standard-bearing purists.

"Talk about a bunch of cannibals," he groans rancorously. "I never pay attention to people like that. I remember when Sparkle and Fade came out, critics would ask, 'Now that you've had success, do you feel like you've turned your back on the indie-rock community?' Well, what community? I've never seen much of a community there and I've never been much a part of it if there is one, so I wouldn't know. I guarantee you that I didn't make a low-fi record to be cool or hip; I did it because I had only 400 bucks to spend on a record. Had we been signed to a major label, I would've made the record sound different.

"You know," he continues on a roll, the words coming fast, "no one complains about the Beatles having hit records. That's why I never pay attention to any of that. I think, basically, we're a pretty easy band to get: You either get it or you don't. Flat out, we're a rock and roll band. We're not an alternative band and we're not an indie-rock band and we're not a metal band. We're a rock and roll band. And you either like rock and roll bands or you don't."

Everclear performs with Jimmie's Chicken Shack and Feeder at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, at the Cameo Theatre, 1445 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 532-0922. Tickets cost $12.50.

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