Everclear

Slow Motion Daydream

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AllMusic Review by

Aging was never going to be an easy task for Everclear. Led by Art Alexakis, a singer/songwriter who was just a little older than the rest of his post-grunge peers, perhaps inevitably led to his tackling subjects outside of the range of the Seven Mary Threes of the world; but that wasn't as much of a problem as the fact that his band was a career band in an era where the music industry and the audience generally ignored career bands. So, after their time in the sun in the mid- '90s, they earned the license to stretch -- resulting in the two-part album, Songs from an American Movie, in 2000 -- but they did it at a time when audiences were fickle, and they lost a big part of their fan base between the two records (Learning How to Smile debuted in the Top Ten that July; that November, its successor, Good Time for a Bad Attitude, peaked at a humiliating 66). The thing is, the band didn't get worse between those two records; if anything, they were more effective than ever in tying their hard rock and ambitious pop leanings together on Learning How to Smile, while Alexakis' songwriting remained sturdy and tuneful. In a different era, say 20 years earlier, they could have sustained a career as a good journeyman rock group, but stakes were higher in the post-alternative world and it was possible for the band to do good work without receiving any credit, while simultaneously stretching themselves too far in an attempt to get noticed thereby hurting the overall record. And that's the problem with Slow Motion Daydream, which consolidates the strengths and weaknesses of Songs from an American Movie on one disc. At its best, the album illustrates that Alexakis is a very good rock songwriter and his songs sound the best with just a little bit of pop gloss. That combination can be irresistible, as it is on the opening two tracks, along with a couple other incidents later in the album (including the "hidden" bonus track; a good song -- one of the best on the record -- but its very presence makes this album seem like a '90s artifact). But for every shining moment, there are missteps, which fall into two categories. First, there's Alexakis' perennial tin ear, resulting in embarrassing stabs at social commentary in "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom," and the misguided "New York Times." More problematic is his commitment to the absurd notion, shared by many of his peers, that sub-Brian Wilson sunshine pop arrangements are the height of "adventurous" rock, resulting in debacles like the bungled baroque strings on "Science Fiction," and similar stumbles like "Chrysanthemum." That there aren't as many flops as there are good songs is something only the dedicated will notice, unfortunately, because journeymen rockers like this aren't paid attention to in 2003, and failed ambitions are more likely to earn ire than note from critics. Which is too bad, because Everclear and Slow Motion Daydream deserve better -- they may not be consistent, but when they deliver, they're still as good as they ever were.

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