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Songs from an American Movie Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile

Release Date: 07.11.00
Record label: capitol
Genre(s): Rock


Let the Good Times Roll
by: bill aicher

Some bands progress geometrically from album to album. Take Radiohead for example: Pablo Honey was by no means a bad album. However, when you look at how they grew by the time they released The Bends, or the unbelievable amount of growth they had as a band by OK Computer, it is obvious that time can breed brilliance.

Sadly, Everclear is not part of this phenomena. In the course of their three major-label releases (Sparkle and Fade, So Much for the Afterglow, and the new Songs from an American Movie Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile) the lesson they have learned is as simple as this: pop music sells.

Yes kids, Everclear has gone full-blown pop. Consider this, one of the catchiest songs on the album, "AM Radio," features a sample from "Mr. Big Stuff" and features lyrics delving into the crazy idea of what it was like to grow up in the 70s - with no CD Players or DVDs - "You would listen to the music on the AM radio."

Yet there are times when Art Alexakis and crew do return to the life-smart songs they offered us on previous albums. However, on these previous efforts Alexakis sang songs about his hard life, with equal parts bitterness and hope. This time around they are sung in joy. It just doesn't seem to match the tone.

But the worst can be found on track four. Yes, Everclear have pulled a Madonna and touched a song that should never be touched. Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" has become a staple of American culture, so it would make sense to feature it on Songs from an American Movie. But did it need to be changed? Everclear have changed it from a happy singalong to a grand opus, incorporating harmonies and even changing the patterns of sha la la's just enough that the song is just not the same.

Yet there is still hope. Everclear has announced that this is part one of two. Yes, later this year (October, in fact) Songs From an American Movie Vol 2: Good Times for Bad Attitude will be released. This second album will supposedly feature a harder rock / guitar sound - hopefully something akin to Sparkle and Fade.

Either way, Everclear no doubt has reason to smile. Learning How to Smile has taken the place as best ever debut, showing up at #9 on Billboard's top 200.