Your adolescence is back, and it brought a synth.
I’m talking of course to the fellow 20-30-year-olds out there whose nostalgia reflexes are similarly triggered by songs like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” and “Wonderful”. If the late ’90s does it for you, then please stay tuned.
It’s a new group of faces surrounding frontman Art Alexakis for Everclear’s eighth (!) album, but it doesn’t show in most of the songs on Invisible Stars. In an alternate universe, Stars could very well be a natural sequel to 1995’s Sparkle and Fade. It rocks hard, reminisces hard, and doesn’t mince words; it’s perhaps the group’s most cohesive collection of straightforward rock to date, even if some of its “sparkle” is just glitzy production value. Not much has changed on the lyrical front; Stars is an unmasked collection of songs from Art & co. about failure, addiction, and starting over. It may be a practiced act by now, but few others are capable of putting forth such earnest and capable songwriting from such a turbulent upbringing. Well, not since Kurt Cobain anyway.
The clear highlight on Stars is “Be Careful What You Ask For,” easily the fattest hook on the album. It’s uptempo, has more wee-oo-wee synth than Justin Pierre could ever envision, and features a solid drum attack. If you’re looking for distinctly earnest, passionately bittersweet songwriting laid atop a catchy-as-hell rock attack straight from the Everclear playbook, then this is your song.
“Santa Ana Wind” is a natural sequel to 1995’s “Santa Monica,” both lyrically and rhythmically. “Falling in a Good Way” is about peaking early in life and living a jaded screwed-up life, but you’d never know it from the saccharine pulsing through its veins.
It’s difficult to analyze many more of the songs here because they all wear their intentions clearly. “Jackie Robinson” is perhaps the best example of Art’s sincere songwriting, and if the stories he recalls within aren’t actually from recollection, he’s believable enough to sell them all. “Aces” claims to solve everyone’s problems with “a way to make money out of broken boys and difficult girls,” and “I Am Better Without You” is an Everclear reinterpretation of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” that’s as hard-hitting as any song on the album.
Sharing a release date with nostalgia fellows The Offspring, Linkin Park, and Blues Traveler, Everclear benefits most from the massive shot of adrenaline that Invisible Stars offers. Nothing sounds “old” here, even though Art turned 50 in April; in fact, the energy level is dialed up higher than ever. Part of what makes it so pleasant is the shock of good original material after the weird, shoddy, re-recorded “greatest hits” stuff that Everclear has been throwing onto the shelves over the last few years. But I’m willing to call it water under the bridge since I like Invisible Stars so much – it’s loud, it’s hella fun, and it’s classic Everclear – plus synths (seriously, synths everywhere) and some shiny studio work.
(1) Tiger in a Burning Tree
(2) Falling in a Good Way
(3) Be Careful What You Ask For
(5) Santa Ana Wind
(7) I Am Better Without You
(9) Jackie Robinson