American alternative rock outfit Everclear rocked the 90’s, and in the last few years the group have reappeared on the music radar despite a round of bad luck and various line up changes; the 2012 release of their eighth studio album Invisible Stars was their first original release in six years and resulted in the nostalgic Summerland Tour, alongside other 90s artists including Sugar Ray. Everclear are back this year with album number nine Black Is The New Black, and we embrace it with open arms. It will be interesting to see where the group has gone with its sound.
Almost right off the bat we are treated to the energetic Sugar Noise, carrying Everclear’s tradition of intriguingly naming their tracks and delivering a catchy and decent rock number. The Man Who Broke His Own Heart would be a lot more enjoyable if the vocal wasn’t so drowned out by the guitars: the group’s lyrics are often just as captivating as the instrumentation, so it makes no sense to make them indecipherable at any point in any song. The concept of American Monster manages to be interesting despite its cliché: we often talk about the monster within ourselves, but this has been done with some edgy guitar work and a harsh vocal to bring the message home. There’s a different tone to Complacement and it’s refreshing, but at the same time it’s depressing, we can really feel for Alexakis as he sings of the troubles in his personal life. You is also just as confronting as we are also reminded of Art’s troubled childhood.
The short lived This Is Your Death Song is the typical angst-packed alternative rock tune about wanting “to be left alone” and not wanting to sing “this stupid song”…so don’t then. Simple and Plain is kind of self explanatory in terms of its delivery and content, it’s the heavy rock we have come to expect from the group and again touches on Alexakis’ past. As we wait for some album diversity, Anything Is Better Than This continues the delivery of solid rock but it serves the same dish each time. The more we order the less satisfying the meal becomes, after all. Finally our prayers are answered as Van Gogh Sun has a different sound to its predecessors: it almost begins as a ballad but as the beat comes in it remains a lighter number. Pretty Bomb is a fast paced dose of heavy rock that hits the spot, whereas we get to hear some neat acoustic work with Safe before the instrumentation blooms into something more in depth.
Everclear haven’t lost their place as being one of the world’s best and most memorable alternative rock bands, more memorably during their career peak in the 90s, but Black Is The New Black wasn’t the greatest listen from beginning to end. While there were some track highlights (Sugar Noise, Complacement, You, Van Gogh Sun and Pretty Bomb), there were a few overall lowlights that let the album down. The overall sound of an album should have tracks that are related or stick to a concept/s, which was evidently done with this record, but the tracks weren’t diverse enough to stand alone from each other. Everclear have still got what it takes after nearly 25 years. Black Is The New Black was enjoyable to an extent, but it’s not their greatest album to date.