Monday, October 12, 2015

ROCKTOBER: So Much for the Afterglow

I’ve been holding this in for a long time, but I’m not gonna be ashamed any longer. I’m tired of hiding this. It’s time to just stand up, semi-anonymously, and shout it via words in a blog:


When it comes to mainstream rock music from the late ‘90s, the general consensus can be narrowed down to two words: “Forgettable” and “Crap.”

Maybe that’s just my perception, but most rock music lovers see the progression of rock music after 1975 to be a downward-trending line, and the only difference of opinions involve how steep the drop is and how brief the bump from grunge -- the only upward trend anyone seems willing to concede -- lasted before things went completely off the cliff.

Of course I love late ‘90s rock. Not all of it, mind you, but plenty enough to have to own my love of it. Better Than Ezra, Dishwalla, Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, and of course, Foo Fighters. These bands, while no longer on heavy rotation in my listening life, are never far away, either. They drop by with a song on my iPod quite regularly, and rarely are those songs skipped.

It’s weird, because this is the music of my late 20s… which isn’t supposed to be all that meaningful. I mean, it’s not the music of my adolescence, when I was discovering my own taste. And it’s not the music of my college years, when every memory is pinned into place in my skull with a song or two. It’s the First Years of the Rest of My Life, where I’m grinding away at a job, discovering the mostly bliss and sometimes boredom of those newlywed years, wondering when hangovers started being less funny and more enduring.

Maybe it’s because I was always a slow learner. Not about books. I’ve always been decently booksmart. I mean about The Way Things Are. Street smarts. Life lessons. I was a bit delayed on getting the bigger picture about some things.

“So Much for the Afterglow” is an in-your-face celebration of how dysfunctional we all are, those of us stuck between the bottom rung and the top 5%, the people in that gray area between impoverished and luxuriant. They sing about the hypocrisies of suburbia, the endless ways parents manage to screw up their children, the ways childhood friendships never seem to make it to adult friendships without massive scars and metamorphoses.

My favorite songs from the album are also the ones that seem doomed to their own inevitable hypocrisy, songs about musicians selling out and letting others steer their fate. The whole album seems to be fretting over how we’re losing our souls… while the album, one could argue, sounds like they must’ve sold their souls to have it made in the first place.

I mean, “Sparkle and Fade,” their previous album and major label debut, still feels at least a little raw. The attitude and subject matter isn’t all that different -- Art Alexakis mines a small neighborhood of topical territory for most of Everclear’s still-going existence -- but several layers of varnish and production time went into “So Much for the Afterglow.” It’s cleaner.

And I like it. It’s sorta bitter and world-weary, but there’s this optimistic undercurrent to it all. The whole album says, “We’re all pretty f*#ked up, and our world and well-being are probably ultimately f*#ked. But we’re still breathing, and I’m not going to let anyone take what’s left for me to own. It’s mine. And maybe I’ll screw it up myself, but at least it’ll be my screw-up.”

Maybe the album remains beloved because that kinda sums up how I felt about being 25. Annoyed but optimistic. Far more attuned to all the hypocrisies around me than my own. And pissed off enough about people who suck enough to be angry, but not quite enough to be a Real Activist. Just enough to, like, crank the music louder, flip a few people off, and smile about it.


G. B. Miller said...

One of my favorite top ten c.d.'s that I love to play in the car. Solid all the way around. Love the instrumental "El Distorto De Melodica."

Billy said...

Agreed, G.B.! It was long one of my Go-To albums for a long drive*! I appreciate how Everclear sort of extends a middle finger to the notion that an album must have several carefully-placed ballads or a slow-down points. That whole album pushes forward at an aggressive pace (with the exception of "I Will Buy You a New Life")!

* -- Admittedly more back in the days when listening options were limited to cassettes or CDs... (radio doesn't count and never did for me)

goofytakemyhand said...

"Just enough to, like, crank the music louder, flip a few people off, and smile about it."

Better to flip a few people off, than fight a cop and get sent to slammer, as one ex-faculty member did during a memorable Everclear concert.