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+ {The Easy Hoes} + {Colorfinger} + {Art Alexakis}

One of an endless supply of post-grunge acts to emerge from the States (and beyond), alt-rockers EVERCLEAR were basically the brainchild of Los Angeles singer/guitarist Art Alexakis, a man born (Arthur Paul Alexakis, April 12, 1962) of Greek ancestry and plenty problems. Named after an infamous grain alcohol rather than a choice album by AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB, EVERCLEAR spread themselves thinly over several hit albums, on which tracks `Santa Monica’, `Father Of Mine’, `Wonderful’, `Heroin Girl’ and `Everything To Everyone’ stood out.
Coming from a broken home, teenage Art was also dogged by the deaths of his older brother, George (heroin overdose) and his 15-year-old girlfriend (suicide), which almost led to his own death by jumping off Santa Monica Pier. A brief stint at UCLA film school proved fruitless, while his first proper rock band, Shakin’ Brave, were overwhelmed by the enormity of the West Coast music scene. In June 1984, former teenage junkie Art gave up alcohol, drugs and nicotine.
In the event, A.P. Alexakis and his first wife Anita flitted north to San Francisco where “cowpunk” was still the in-thing – or so it seemed. There he founded Shindig Records, and under the banner of The EASY HOES, alongside Johnny Crow (aka Jeff Krebs on vocals, guitar), Kim Rohrbach (bass) and Kyle Statham drums), one LP was issued toward the fall of ’89: TRAGIC SONGS OF LIFE {*5}. Probably not Alexakis’ best career highlight, the group delivered their own compositions side by side with trad songs `In The Pines’ and `On The Rock (Where Moses Stood)’, plus Leon Payne’s `Lost Highway’, Burch & Stewart’s `Poor Red Georgia Dirt’ and AC/DC’s `You Shook Me (All Night Long)’; Statham later joined FUCK.
Art’s (or Arthur D. Nation’s) embryonic solo project COLORFINGER surfaced in 1990 with the label’s third release, DEEP IN THE HEART OF THE BEAST IN THE SUN {*5}; poignant in it possessing a re-vamp of `? (The Gay Bar Song)’ and songs that EVERCLEAR re-produced in various forms (including `Culver Palms (Or Why I Don’t Believe In God)’), plus the un-GRATEFUL `Kill Jerry Garcia’. Augmented by guitarist Karl Maruyama, bassist Buz Rico and drummer Keith Owings (the latter two respectively soon to be replaced by Andy Marauder and Eric Neves), Art would add production and guitar touches to Lost Dog’s `Spiritual Disneyland’, Shindig’s swansong album when their distributor went bankrupt.
Taking flight in 1992 to the home town (Portland, Oregon) of his pregnant new girlfriend Jenny Dodson, he placed an ad in local rag The Rocket; auditions brought forth bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Scott Cuthbert. Blagging instruments from various sources, the tapes found their way to Tim/Kerr Records, who released the sessions in 1993 as the `Nervous & Weird’ EP.
Recorded in a mate’s basement for a princely sum of around $400, WORLD OF NOISE (1993) {*6} was a genuine start to their campaign – it was just that NIRVANA comparisons on `Sick And Tired’, `Sparkle’, `Nervous And Weird’ and `Fire Maple Song’, derided what should’ve been a resounding success. After rave concert reviews they were whisked away by Capitol Records A&R man Perry Watts-Russell; it was alleged that the group were released from their contract only when the gun-totting Alexakis convinced the boss to let them go.
By September the following year, and now with Greg Eklund (ex-Jollymon) installed as their new drummer, EVERCLEAR’s sophomore set, SPARKLE AND FADE (1995) {*9}, steadily climbed the charts, reaching the Top 30 several months after its release. A stylish anti-drug affair, it was described as HUSKER DU, SCREAMING TREES or NIRVANA-like, and in `Santa Monica’, they had a signature tune ready and waiting; `Heroin Girl’, `Heartspark Dollarsign’ and `You Make Me Feel Like A Whore’ also took grunge one step away from its Seattle roots.
Alexakis and Co returned with a third set, SO MUCH FOR THE AFTERGLOW (1997) {*7}, a Top 40 entry that almost spawned a second UK Top 40 single in `Everything To Everyone’, to match one-that-almost-got-away `Santa Monica (Watch The World Die)’. Sounding less NIRVANA, more WEEZER-meets-The BEACH BOYS, EVERCLEAR cast off their shackles by way of further singles `I Will Buy You A New Life’, `Father Of Mine’ and `One Hit Wonder’.
While many of the tail-end grunge acts imploded before the 90s were through, EVERCLEAR entered the new millennium with their most ambitious project to date, a two-tier concept set exploring Alexakis’ divorce. SONGS FROM AN AMERICAN MOVIE VOL.ONE: LEARNING HOW TO SMILE (2000) {*6} covered the dating years with a peppy soundtrack inspired by the sunshine-pop/bubblegum-rock of the frontman’s youth, including a cover of VAN MORRISON’s timeless `Brown Eyed Girl’. On the surface, the lilting melodies of certain tracks were cutesy-pie (`Wonderful’ almost hit the US Top 10), but Art’s smart-ass psyche on `A.M. Radio’, `Here We Go Again’ and `Otis Redding’ got lost somewhere in 80s sock-rock metal.
The sequel suffered commercially in its wake. SONGS FROM AN AMERICAN MOVIE, VOL.TWO: GOOD TIME FOR A BAD ATTITUDE (2000) {*6} hit the shelves only a matter of months later, documenting his American dream turned sour. Unsurprisingly, the music was harder and the subject matter heavier as Alexakis exorcised the pain of lost love and broken friendship on `When It All Goes Wrong’, `All F***ed Up’ and `Rock Star’ (the latter song plucked for the Mark Wahlberg film of the same name). In the meantime, Art married for a third time, this time to Stephanie Greig (whom he divorced in 2004).
The Portland songwriter returned in 2003 with EVERCLEAR’s sixth album, SLOW MOTION DAYDREAM {*6}, a respectable Top 40 effort but one which made it difficult to shake off the impression that the whole concept of EVERCLEAR and their approach to rock was perhaps a little dated. Alexakis proved he could still cut to the quick on the likes of opener `How To Win Friends And Influence People’, although the cliche-ridden `Volvo Driving Soccer Mom’ and `The New York Times’, hinted at desperation rather than inspiration.
When EVERCLEAR were surplus to Capitol’s requirements, Messrs Montoya and Eklund duly jumped ship to Tri-Polar and The Oohlas, respectively. Roping in no less than four musicians to compensate: Josh Crawley (keyboards), Davey French (guitar), Sam Hudson (bass) and Brett Snyder (drums), the streamlined and hook-y WELCOME TO THE DRAMA CLUB (2006) {*5} – for Eleven Seven Records – had less oomph and impact, with the exception of the BECK-esque `Under The Western Stars’ and the witty `A Shameless Use Of Charm’.
On a lull from their time out of contract, Capitol Records offered a little support to the band by delivering a compilation of covers that joined up the dots during their decade-long association. THE VEGAS YEARS (2008) {*5} turned out to be okay if a tad embarrassing; Art and EVERCLEAR going through the motions on re-vamps of `Rich Girl’ (HALL & OATES), `Our Lips Are Sealed’ (The GO-GO’S), `The Boys Are Back In Town’ (THIN LIZZY), `Bad Connection’ (YAZOO), `Kicks’(PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS), `Pocahontas’ (NEIL YOUNG), `Night Train To Memphis’ (ROY ACUFF), `This Land Is Your Land’ (WOODY GUTHRIE), `American Girl’ (TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS), the aforementioned `Brown Eyed Girl’ live, `Southern Girls’ (CHEAP TRICK) et al.
When journeyman drummer Tommy Stewart (ex-GODSMACK, ex-LILLIAN AXE) came on board one thought that EVERCLEAR’s world would be less hazy and retrospective. One couldn’t have been more wrong, as 429 Records became responsible for their out-dated unplugged “greatest hits” sessions IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT (2009) {*4}.
A re-shuffle of personnel yet again had Alexakis and French enlisting bassist Freddy Herrera and drummer Sean Winchester (to replace short-stint Jordan Plosky), but EVERCLEAR’s recession had no boundaries as twilight budget label Cleopatra and Art came up with another re-tread sessions to fit in with further covers. Certainly a cheap trick, RETURN TO SANTA MONICA (2011) {*5} saddled that tune and others next to `I Won’t Back Down’ (TOM PETTY), `The Joker’ (STEVE MILLER BAND), `I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE), `Every Breath You Take’ (The POLICE) and er… `Brown Eyed Girl’.
While Crawley had returned to supersede Sasha Smith, long-suffering fans of the band had their prayers answered on 2012’s “return to sanity” set INVISIBLE STARS {*7}. Massaging as always, his ego and nostalgic nuances, 50-year-old Alexakis went back to high school territory for `Falling In A Good Way’, `Be Careful What You Ask For’ and `Santa Ana Wind’.
Subsequent Summerland Tours kept the EVERCLEAR show on the road (alongside numerous 90s post-grunge acts), but it was in the tighter and heavy-kicking BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK (2015) {*7} that should’ve fashioned a commercial comeback. From the nasty `Sugar Noise’ (their best in years), `The Man Who Broke His Own Heart’ and `American Monster’, it all sounded head-bangingly raucous, although chunky riff-tastic guitars and BECK-like rapping by Art was a little dated, but gratefully received.
ART ALEXAKIS’ debut solo set, SUN SONGS (2019) {*7} was, unsurprisingly, an extension of the singer/songwriter’s curricular activities, albeit a little lighter and acoustic in places. So-called SoCal punk, brush-stroked with an attitude befitting the heat pounding on one’s head nigh-on every day in L.A., the art-for-art’s-sake ALEXAKIS strummed his way into the subconscious of fans all over the globe; and this set was no exception. Okay, there’d be limits to a love-in beyond the first side, however the man’s patient fanbase should press-playful: `Sunshine Love Song’, `California Blood’, `House With A Pool’, `Orange’ and the JANE’S ADDICTION-esque `The Hot Water Test’.
© MC Strong 1996-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS May2015-Oct2019

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