Slow Motion Daydream


Capitol Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Songs From An American Movie was quite an accomplishment, a turn of the century double concept album from a band that had previously been known for smartass post-grunge like "Santa Monica" and "Everything To Everyone." The songwriting didn't change much, but the tweaks to the formula resulted in the personal "Wonderful," the fun "AM Radio" (which has become less annoying as the years pass) and the fun sendup "Rock Star." If the second volume wasn't nearly as successful for good, the first still stands as a good rock album from the era.

Slow Motion Daydream attempted to scale back the length and attitude to the days of old, but the rock world had long since moved on from Everclear's heyday, and this wound up as the final album from the original trio. The bulk of the album is fine but no different from anything the band had said already, musically, and so the disc betrays creative exhaustion and the need to call it a day.

"How To Win Friends And Influence People" is textbook Everclear, with the familiar one-note guitar strum stop-start intro, loud-quiet dynamics and lyrics that go from cheerful to dark in the blink of an eye ("It's a beautiful day / People love to hit you when you close your eyes"). That lyrical theme – of growing up, moving on, looking back and wondering what happened – runs through much of the album, from the metaphor of "Blacjack" to the small-town dead-end characters of "I Want To Die A Beautiful Death" to the absurd female at the heart of "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That song also draws from the Everclear playbook musically, from the rather limited approach that Art Alexakis has to his songwriting, but the lyrics are rather disturbing. Going for some kind of social commentary with how party-hearty girls turn into "blond bland middle class Republican wives" who embody the title, the song instead comes off as a smarmy attack on people who grew up and became responsible, who decided that being 20 and drinking every night was no way to waste life. More disturbing is the casual way that Alexakis refers to the girl's wild past; she was gang raped in the bathroom at her prom, she had a threesome with her sister and boyfriend, smoked pot and stripped, and somehow turning her life around is a bad thing? She grew up, Art, and you didn't.

Putting that aside, the rest of the disc follows a similar lyrical and musical approach, rarely rising to the heights of Everclear's best work but doing it no disserve either. Clearly, after eight plus years, these guys have become professionals, and they know what an Everclear album should sound like, but as the disc plays there's an increasing sense of "Why do I need to hear this?" The background string arrangements are a nice touch, at least.

The short, melancholy "Chrysanthemum" is a left-field surprise late in the proceedings, and "Sunshine (That Acid Summer)" is a nice memory trip, while the closing "The New York Times," ostensibly a response to 9/11, is a heartfelt piece with a direct, overly simplistic message ("I would like to believe we can learn from this / And maybe someday we can make things right"). Such simplicity has been at the heart of Art's lyrics for a while, of course, but contrary to the selfish spirit of "Volvo...," he is at least turning an eye to the outside world.

These handful of highlights are not enough to save a rather mundane outing, and it's no surprise that the original band ended things after this one. There is just enough here for Everclear fans to enjoy, but most of Slow Motion Daydream proves that the end was near for this venerable post-grunge trio.

Rating: C-

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