Invisible Stars

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To say the six years between 2006's Welcome to the Drama Club and 2012's Invisible Stars were tough for Everclear is something of an understatement. Only one of the musicians who appeared on Drama Club remains -- that would be guitarist/singer Art Alexakis, who already was leading a rejiggered lineup in 2006 and now has a completely different crew on Invisible Stars. This is roughly the same group that appeared on Everclear's pair of 2011 releases of re-recorded hits for budget-line Cleopatra, a sure sign a group has skidded into a rough patch, and if they're not explicitly re-recording songs on Invisible Stars, they're certainly eager to evoke memories of the past by reworking hooks from "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You a New Life," and "Wonderful." Of course, Alexakis has never hidden how he works with a limited palette -- he may have expanded sonic horizons on the two-part Songs from an American Movie back in 2000 but he retained allegiance to the same three chords and topics that brought him fame on Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow -- so this isn't necessarily a fair criticism to level at this late date. What does count is that the hunger to return to the spotlight results in a looser, livelier record than Welcome to the Drama Club; he's so desperate for somebody to pay attention that his hooks are harder, bolder than before and the band rocks, albeit in the coolly restrained manner of seasoned hired hands. Whether this nostalgia -- so calculated that the prom queen of "Falling in a Good Way" pointedly enters high school in 1995, the year Everclear had their first big hit, "Santa Monica" (and this album's "Santa Ana Wind" certainly brings to mind that tune as well) -- has an audience in 2012 is almost beside the point; after many years in the wilderness, Alexakis has once again found the sound of Everclear on Invisible Stars.

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