If you have a bottle of the grain alcohol Everclear singing to you, call for help! But if you’re here looking for the band Everclear, you’re in the right place.
This group from Portland, Oregon, is the pet project of frontman, singer, guitarist, and songwriter Art Alexakis. He has remained the only consistent member of the band. However, their classic line-up included Greg Eklund on drums and Craig Montoya on bass.
The band has put out ten albums to date. But, they were most popular from 1995-1998 when the best Everclear songs peppered the charts, and they toured the world extensively. So, what are the top 10 Everclear songs ever? Well, here’s what I think.
Everclear Band History
It seems like just about any band that sticks around for more than a decade is going to have a complicated history. That’s true for Everclear, too. But, thanks to Art Alexakis’ constant direction, theirs is maybe not as complicated as most.
After moving to Portland from San Francisco…
…where he was a pretty major player on the Cowpunk scene, Alexakis put the group together in 1992. He recruited Craig Montoya on bass and, originally, Scott Cuthbert on drums.
Everclear’s first album, World of Noise EP, was released in 1994. After that, they were signed to Capital Records. They changed drummers to Greg Eklund and recorded their first major label release, Sparkle and Fade, in 1995. This record made a big splash and got the name Everclear on the music map.
After suffering comparisons to Nirvana…
…and, being grouped into the Grunge genre, the band was desperate to do something different. Their next record, 1997’s So Much For the Afterglow, was a Post-Grunge/Alt-Rock album that helped move the band well into the mainstream. But after touring extensively to support this album, Alexakis took a break to work on a solo project.
But, when that didn’t work out as planned, he took his songs and re-joined Everclear. Then they put out Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile, and Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude.
After this period, the public started to lose interest in the band’s sound…
Everclear continued for a few years and released Slow Motion Daydream in 2003. But, finally, Eklund and Montoya left to pursue other projects. Alexakis tried out a solo run, but in 2004 decided to start up Everclear again with a whole new band. Since then, he has four more albums and toured with new musicians, Specifically playing concerts with other 90s Alternative Rock bands.
So, Everclear still performs these days, but their heyday was in the mid-to-late 90s. And, Everclear’s best songs definitely come from this period. The last album to come from the band was 2015’s Black is the New Black. But who knows if there will be any new Everclear albums on the way soon.
“Heroin Girl” (1995)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DjpNgrocKo[/yt]
Sparkle and Fade was Everclear’s first major label release and sounds a lot more polished and professional than their earlier work. However, there’s still a lot of youthful energy, passion, and angst on this record. And, if we’re talking about angst, the track we need to look at first is “Heroin Girl.”
This song hits hard and heavy. And it includes a tiny bit of twang that harkens back to Alexakis’ Cowpunk days. It makes you want to throw yourself into the mosh pit, for sure! But this song is also dark and sad.
The heroin girl in question is undoubtedly a reference to his childhood girlfriend, who died of a heroin overdose at age 15. His brother also died the same way. So, you can be sure that the power and anger behind the vocals are real and raw.
“Santa Monica” (1995)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW6E_TNgCsY[/yt]
Sparkle and Fade wasn’t the biggest record in the world, but one song from this album got the world’s attention. This was “Santa Monica,” the song that blew the band up and the one almost everyone will remember.
Why was this such a great song?
It’s heavy and powerful. The vocals are sung with passion and strength. The guitar hook is simple yet ultra-effective. And the lyrics are really intense.
This is a song about dealing with the pain of loss. Alexakis’s brother died from a heroin overdose, and so did his girlfriend, possibly intentionally. These are the ghosts he’s still living with. But somehow, he manages to stay positive and keep dreaming of a perfect life beside the ocean.
“Heartspark Dollarsign” (1995)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9Pop985sJQ[/yt]
The next single released from Sparkle and Fade was “Heartspark Dollarsign.” This song lived in the shadow of the first two singles, but it’s still a great song in its own right. It is definitely sweeter and poppier than the other two. Even though, it still touches on pretty intense subjects like interracial relationships and bigotry.
The song still has a hard rocking beat and Punk-style guitar. But, the guitar riff and the song structure are influenced by bouncy Pop. The lyrics are about a relationship that nobody approves of, but that is untouchable because it’s powered by pure love – that’s the “heartspark.”
And the “dollarsign”? Maybe it’s the choice you have to make. Whether to quit a relationship or be cut off from family’s and society’s support.
Sparkle and Fade had one more track to contribute to our Top 10 Everclear songs list. That’s “Strawberry,” a slower and somewhat softer song, though it definitely still has a hard edge. This song stands out because it has no drums, just bass, guitar, and multiple vocal tracks recorded by Alexakis.
The song is about falling off the wagon. The “strawberry” in the name refers to road rash, or strawberry burns from that fall. But these are the physical marks that remind you of messing up. This song may simply be a reminder for Alexakis to keep himself clean (he claims to have quit using hard drugs in 1989). Or, it might represent a mistake and a slide back from sobriety.
“I Will Buy You a New Life” (1997)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W05cPXpUHGI[/yt]
So Much for the Afterglow, Everclear’s next album, came out in October 1997 and was a big hit. It ended up as Everclear’s biggest album yet, selling over two million copies (double platinum) and winning them a Grammy. If only for the Best Rock Instrumental category for the track “El Distorto de Melodica”. It had some great tracks on it, with “I Will Buy You a New Life” as a shining example.
This song sees the band’s sound scaled back from edgy Punk Rock and leaning more toward a softer Alternative Rock sound. It has a bouncy mid-tempo beat and is supported by fat organ chords. The song sounds like it’s all about money, but according to Alexakis, this is a purely romantic song. It’s telling the person you love that you will devote everything to making their life better.
“Everything to Everyone” (1997)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1vQJFF2TKQ[/yt]
Also hailing from 1997’s So Much for the Afterglow, the next song on our list is another mid-tempo Alt-Rock hit. It claimed the #1 spot in the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and was also used in the hit teen comedy American Pie.
This song was a departure from the band’s earlier sound. It’s less edgy and includes more Pop elements like a sing-songy chorus and layered guitars. But this song is still angry, or at least, angsty. It’s an admonition to people who just try to please everyone without really ever being themselves or taking a stance on anything.
“Father of Mine” (1997)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkcbxjWG9Mc[/yt]
From the same album comes an intensely personal song – “Father of Mine.” This track is a Pop-infused Hard Rock song that comes from Alexakis’ real-life experiences. He sings his heart out here, in a sort of open letter to the father that abandoned him at the age of two.
This event started his life out hard, forcing his family into poverty and making him grow up hard. He blames his father for not being there and wonders if the abandonment also ruined his dad’s life.
But, he also ends on a positive note, swearing that he’ll never do to his daughter what his father did to him. This is a tough song to listen to because it rings so true. But that’s also what makes it such a great piece of writing. As well as one of the greatest Everclear songs of all time.
“One Hit Wonder” (1997)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEUWx4LA7jU[/yt]
The last song on my list from So Much for the Afterglow is something different yet again. This song is almost a contradiction in itself. It has two distinct parts with different sounds, and this represents the band trying to deal with their sound overall.
The first part of the song is dripping with Pop elements, like clean guitars and a bright and peppy beat. The second part is Hard Rock verging on the band’s original Punk style.
Lyrically, “One Hit Wonder” is about the battle between outside influences (i.e., record companies trying to use you to make money) and being true to yourself (i.e., sticking to your guns). And, of course, it speaks to the success of “Santa Monica,” Everclear’s best-known and best-loved song.
The band’s next album, 2000’s Songs from an American Movie Vol. One: Learning How to Smile, saw Alexakis toning down his harder side. The song “Wonderful” from this album is a much softer Pop-Rock song. One that you almost wouldn’t recognize as an Everclear song if it wasn’t for Alexakis’ signature vocal delivery.
The song is about divorce but from the perspective of a child caught in the middle. This comes from Alexakis’ parents and also his own divorce. So, while the song has a delightful, sugary-sweet “na-na-na” chorus, this is in contrast to the emotional turmoil that the kid is going through.
“AM Radio” (2000)[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjg39XRkjVc[/yt]
The last song that rounds out my list is “AM Radio,” also from Songs from an American Movie Vol. One. This song has an incredibly bright, bouncy feel and includes a sample from Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” to give it a retro feel.
This song has a distinct 70s sound and almost seems like it could be found on AM radio itself, except for the guitar solo and hard-rocking bridge. The rest of the song is fun and funky, with Alexakis singing all about the experiences of listening to the radio when he was growing up.
In The Mood For Excellent 90s Music?
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The Top 10 Everclear Songs of All Time
Everclear may still be performing, albeit with a whole new line-up, but their biggest period seems to be behind them. In the mid-to-late-90s, this band made their biggest and best hits. And they weren’t a one-hit wonder either. They had a string of big songs that won them lots of fans as they slowly moved through styles and cemented their sound.
Today, Art Alexakis is still running the band, mostly a nostalgia project. But you never know when a new album might produce another Top 10 song by Everclear to add to our list. For now, we’ve got ten great tracks that defined this band and their 90s Alt-Rock sound.
Until next time, enjoy the music.