Given the tenor of Art Alexakis’s existence these last few years (going through his third divorce, filing for bankruptcy, saying farewell to two-thirds of the band that hit big in the late ‘90s with “Santa Monica”), Everclear’s eighth album Welcome to the Drama Club should have the raw, no-holds-barred feel of a Blood On The Tracks or Nebraska, but, despite his uncanny ability to synthesize seething frustration into addictive, sugar-coated three-minute ditties, Alexakis is no Dylan or Springsteen. Having recruited bassist Sam Hudson, guitarist Dave French, drummer Brett Snyder, and keyboardist Josh Crawley, Alexakis elected to travel a less dour route, infusing his trademark grungy punk with a shot of Bakersfield sunshine. It’s not entirely surprising, since traces of glittery, jangly pop have been evident in Everclear’s songs as far back as So Much For The Afterglow; here, tracks like “Now,” “Shine,” “Glorious,” and “The Drama King” (which sounds so close to “I Will Buy You A New Life” Alexakis should sue himself for plagiarism), blossom like carefully tended flowers, revealing lush harmonies and sleek wall-of-sound guitar. While most the tracks don’t linger long after an initial spin or two, I still don’t quite understand the intent of the faux-Offspring flavored lead single “Hater” or the sense that, despite the shit-storms Alexakis has weathered, he’s not a little bit angrier; it’s almost as though some anger management classes or self-help books finessed the vital, pissed-off artist right out of his system. It’s revenge against an unfair world delivered with a hug rather than a clenched fist.
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