Ten Years Gone: The Best of Everclear, 1994-2004

by: Everclear

Everclear, or more specifically their lead singer/songwriter Art Alexakis, were a little more ambitious than the rest of the second-wave grunge bands. They weren't tied to the all-guitars, all-the-time aesthetic, leaping to incorporate synths into their sound on So Much for the Afterglow, their 1997 follow-up to their 1995 breakthrough Sparkle and Fade, and they also released a two-part concept album in 2000s twin records Songs From an American Movie. Alexakis had a broader world view than a lot of the angst-ridden grungers. Perhaps because he was a little bit older than his peers, he approached subjects like parental relationships ("Father of Mine") and marriage ("I Will Buy You a New Life") with a nuanced touch, which not only gave them a distinct personality, but opened up doors at adult alternative radio. For as often as Everclear touched on this sensitive spin on grunge, they just as often -- if not more frequently -- went for easy social commentary, silly jokes or vulgarity, as epitomized by "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom" which pulls off the hat trick. They also could fall on their face musically, reaching too far or trying too hard for a hit, as they did on the unabashed exercise in '70s nostalgia "AM Radio," which was delivered about seven years too late. That inconsistency could make them frustrating as album artists -- every time they clicked, they were undercut by one of their flaws -- but it made them a reliably satisfying staple on modern rock radio in the '90s, since they turned out a series of very good post-grunge hits. That in turn makes them a great candidate for a greatest-hits collection, and their first, Ten Years Gone: The Best of Everclear 1994-2004, was released in the fall of 2004. This contains the big hits that stand the test of time -- the career-making "Santa Monica," "Wonderfull," "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You a New Life," "When It All Goes Wrong Again," "Father of Mine," even "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom" -- but it doesn't contain all the charting singles: in chronological order (and in descending order of importance), the missing hits are "Heartspark Dollarsign," "One Hit Wonder" and "Out of My Depth." Since Ten Years Gone weighs in at a hefty 21 tracks, it's kind of amazing that there was no room for them anywhere on this collection, but apart from "Heartspark Dollarsign," they're not really missed. The bigger problem is that, no matter how generous this running time is, it's simply too much Everclear -- at this length, their inconsistency peeks through, even if this does contain the big hits and important album tracks. Then again, that inconsistency was a big part of the band, so it's accurate to have the collection be a bit inconsistent too, and even this is uneven, it's more consistent than any of their proper albums. Most importantly, it's best moments are proof that Everclear as a band and Art Alexakis as a songwriter delivered some of the stronger post-grunge radio hits of the '90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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