Sparkle And Fade


Capitol, 1995

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


As Everclear’s popularity increased, their reputation seemed to decrease, with older fans bemoaning tracks like “Wonderful” and “A.M. Radio” and casual fans thinking the band didn’t have much to offer in the first place other than post-grunge cashing in. To many, Everclear was part of the post-Nirvana second wave that included Bush, Candlebox, Matchbox 20, and Creed, bands that sounded right and achieved popularity but weren’t musically innovative or terribly original.

Yet while Everclear’s timing may have been unfortunate, their sound was, for a while, unique and necessary in mid-90s rock. The band wound up repeating this same sound and songwriting approach time after time - to the point where it’s hard to tell the songs apart on everything from American Movie Pt. 2 to the present day – but this is where it all started, and it’s potent, noisy fun.

Sparkle And Fade is punk in some spots, rock in most other spots, and achieves the trick of sounding cheerful while discussing rather bleak lyrical themes. Art Alexakis would eventually delve too deeply into his past and his psyche for inspiration, but here his themes of loneliness, burning out, drugs, losing those you love, rough childhoods and wondering where the hell your place in life is resonate. Such themes could easily be morose or wallowing, but Alexakis uses them as fuel for his upbeat power chords, achieving a sort of catharsis with a devilish grin.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sparkle And Fade is the band’s major label debut, coming two years after the little-heard World Of Noise, and it is full of several planks in the band’s story as well as many of its best songs. Perhaps “Santa Monica” has overstayed its welcome for what it offers, but it remains a completely efficient alt-rocker with a hook, and those never get old. “Heroin Girl” was also a minor hit, but for me, “Summerland” is the true highlight, a dusky, noisy rocker about packing up and getting out of your small town (where you’re misunderstood, of course) to live how you want.

“Heartspark Dollarsign” and “Electra Made Me Blind” are two other highlights, not often heard when discussing the band but as worthy as anything else from their early days, the former dealing bluntly with racism in a small town (his girlfriend is black, oh no) and the latter a catchy, fast number that also tells a story. Actually, many of the songs are short stories, another trick Alexakis uses to keep these from being self-pitying or same-old-story numbers. “The Twistinside” is a forgotten classic, using more dynamic range than most of the disc and several layers of guitar than one would expect; unfortunately, it’s a little close to Nirvana in its approach (as is “Her Brand New Skin”), but that’s hardly a bad thing.

The disc runs out of idea toward the end, if not energy, but closes with “My Sexual Life,” which is as good a song as any about gossip and rumors in a small town and how your history is always part of you; the song is somewhat low-key, considering the rest of the album, with some interesting chord changes inspired by ‘50s rock in the middle section before switching to the final chord that closes out the song. For an album where subtlety is not a strong suit, the songwriting shows a promise that unfortunately would never really materialize except on parts of Songs From An American Movie Vol. 1.

Still, Sparkle And Fade is a good fun hard rock album with a punk energy that many would consider the band’s best work. If you’re at all interested in Everclear beyond the hits, this is where to start.

Rating: B

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