Sound: Let the therapy session begin -- we're all invited. If there's one thing that Everclear can never be accused of, it's writing songs that aren't straight from the heart. And this time around on the new release Welcome To The Drama Club, it's a broken heart that is the main focus.
Regardless of what you think of the musical path that Art Alexakis -- now the only original Everclear member left in the band -- has gone, he has always remained brutally honest. In a world where everything seems plastic and contrived, Alexakis continues to take the most personal (and often emotionally painful) situations and turn them into Everclear songs. Welcome To The Drama Club does not sound like the pop-punk Everclear of the nineties, but that is to be expected with a completely different lineup (Davey French on guitars, Sam Hudson on bass, Josh Crawley on keyboards, and Brett Snyder on drums). The songs are all well written for the most part, although they do now lean more toward the pop side of the equation.
The best of what Welcome To The Drama Club has to offer are the stripped-down songs that don't need much more than an acoustic backing. One of the highlights of the CD is Glorious, which is a slower tempo, heartfelt song that allows Alexakis to pour out all the emotions that have built up in him over the past year (like a third divorce and filing for bankruptcy). The song does not rely on any of synthesized effects, but lets the strong vocals of Alexakis carry the entire thing.
When keyboards take the lead in songs like Shine, it is somewhat distracting -- particularly when you reminisce about guitar-centered classics of yesteryear like Fire Maple Song. The song is almost too poppy, but it might be found catchy by Everclear novices who don't know what the band is truly capable of creating. If Shine had the personal lyrics of other songs, it might be easier to swallow. But alas, it does not and the result just feels too contrived. Thankfully, most songs on the CD don't leave you with the feeling that Shine might.
Welcome To The Drama Club definitely seems to be a cathartic project for Alexakis, and that is what makes it so refreshing in the long run. It might not have the same feel as older albums like World of Noise or Sparkle and Fade, but the honesty heard on earlier CDs is still very much present. // 8
Lyrics: Alexakis' lyrics are absolutely the highlight of Welcome to the Drama Club, but this is to be expected from the man who has written blunt songs like You Make Me Feel Like A Whore and Heroin Girl. No topic is too personal, and that allows listeners to feel just a bit closer to Everclear than another band that doesn't delve too deeply in lyrical content.
The themes cover the gamut, from the peak of love to the chasm of heartbreak. In Glorious, the beauty of past love is the focus. Alexakis sings, You were shining in the white light; Like a fairy tale movie star;
Never really thought I would find Snow White; Drinking in a downtown bar. The bittersweet feeling that surrounds the song is classic Everclear, and it is exactly what the album needs to balance out the tracks that take a harsher view of love.
The band is proclaiming Hater as the Break-Up Song Of 2006 on it's website these days, and for good reason. It is an ode to someone (let's assume the ex-wife) who has put Alexakis through hell for quite some time. The vocalist lets loose on Hater by releasing all that frustration that has been building up inside. I hear you talk; You are such a bore; I see the way you look; I think you look like a whore. Are these the lyrics of the century? No, but that's the point. They are thoughts that your average Joe might say, and that should appeal to plenty of scorned lovers. // 9
Overall Impression: When you're a fan of early Everclear, it's not always easy to listen to the changes that the band has gone through since the early nineties. With that being said, Art Alexakis still has the same passion behind his music, even though synthesizers have taken some of the edge off the songs. Will Welcome To The Drama Club appeal to rock fans? Probably not all of them. There is plenty of heart in the record, but honesty might not be enough to maintain the attention of guitar-based rock fans.
The CD should be recognized, however, for it's musical arrangement as well as it's candid lyrics. There is something about Alexakis' delivery -- perhaps it's the twangy, earthy aspect to his voice -- that is down-to-earth and accessible to a lot of listeners. Welcome To The Drama Club is not the best Everclear album that has been released, but it is an up-close-and-personal, fascinating peek into Alexakis' journey as both a musician and a man who has had one rough year. // 8