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.

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.

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Tavia Robb