Everclear's Art Alexakis can't seem to make up his mind about who he wants to be. He writes lyrics that reveal his desire to be recognized as a moody anti-capitalism type with a big grungy chip on his shoulder. To accompany these wannabe anthems for Generation X (or is it Y now?), he and his cohorts Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund write light, predictable, and almost happy music that reveals their desire to sell a lot of records. This conflicting combination of heavy words and perky tunes on the band's most recent release, Songs from an American Movie Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude, requires a suspension of disbelief. Just negative enough to keep from alienating the conforming-nonconformist set, the album is too smooth and whistle-inducing to take seriously. This middle-of-the-road approach worked for the band members with their 1997 smash release, So Much for the Afterglow, and here they are -- at it again.
While the lyrics on American Movie Vol. Two are witty at times, and often sarcastic, they don't show much soul. Alexakis seems like a chameleon as he role-plays for whomever happens to be listening. In "Rock Star" he croons, "I just want to be a rock star/I want to tell the little people/They can kiss my ass." Then in "Misery Whip" he twirls his tutu with "I will fall down like a bitch for you." As it is with words, so goes the music. Borderline thrash rhythms merge with catchy pop-driven guitar riffs that illustrate an indisputable musical talent. Missing are the palpable and gritty undertones of passion and pain that should accompany these laments of a barren soul. "Misery Whip"'s vocal harmonies and Eighties-rockin' guitar strains are more suited to a Poison tribute album than to an attempted artsy-grungy collection.
"All Fucked Up" better captures the mood of the lyrics, with an adrenaline-pumping rhythm that perfectly complements its words of self-deprecation. A more apt title would be "Kinda Fucked Up" though, because next to the lyrics in the liner notes, Alexakis offers his flaccid indignation at having been "forced" to include a parental advisory sticker on the outside packaging. Then he goes on to say that as a parent himself, he appreciates people warning him about lyrics that might not be suitable for his child's age level.
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With Songs from an American Movie Vol. Two, Everclear proves it is a product of good marketing and even better brand positioning. So what if the group can't decide to be perverse or pretentious, angry or happy, hard or soft.