On This Day: Everclear – Songs From An American Movie Vol. 2: Good Time For A Bad Attitude

Songs From An American Movie Vol Two.jpeg

21 November 2000
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Nineteen years ago today, Everclear released the ostensible sequel to their very successful Songs From An American Movie Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile, albeit to considerably less success. I don’t know the prior album well enough to compare the two side-by-side, but I have a hard time reconciling that lack of commercial impact with the tight, hard-rock pop songs that populate this disc. In 2000 this was the sound that pervaded the airwaves and this record should have been a smash. Maybe it’s because this one came five months after the July 2000 release of its predecessor – apparently, there can be too much of a good thing.

I wrote about this album in brief back in Hello, My Treacherous Friends Vol. 12 and said, not meaning to sound dismissive, “They remind me of bands like Blink-182, sort of a frat party mentality…” to which a friend responded, “I would put them a cut or two above frat rock. They are legitimate songwriters.” So when I saw it come up on its 19th anniversary I decided to revisit the disc and see if my buddy had a point. In the end, it’s not a clear cut yes or no answer. 

The sound of the songs – and I can’t speak for Everclear’s catalog as a whole, just this particular title – would definitely slot in very comfortably next to goofy fun-time bands like Lit and the aforementioned Blink-182, bands that have become, for me, sort of a shorthand for that major-key, pop-leaning, harder rock of the late ‘90s, early ‘00s. Though I generally eschew micro-categories for musical genres, “post-grunge” is as good a descriptor as any, incorporating the harder guitar sounds of the grunge movement while moving out of the slogging self-pity, and self-hatred and into more upbeat, positive, cheerful sounding music. To that end, I stand by my prior statements about this LP.

That said, I have to concede my friend’s point that “they are legitimate songwriters.” The first time I heard this (and did that earlier write-up), I’d paid more attention to the overall sound of the record. So this time I’m listening much more closely. While avoiding outright introspection, frontman Art Alexakis shows a fair degree of self-awareness in his lyrics, loosely centered around his second divorce. And aware of that context, some songs are remarkably impactful. 

Opener “When It All Goes Wrong Again,” sounds like a remarkably confident statement about learning from one’s own mistakes, with it’s repeated assertion that “I’ll be sitting on top / When it all goes wrong again…” But the near-mantra repetition of the phrase in the second half of the song brings with it feelings of desperation and self-doubt. Later, “The Good Witch Of The North” comes off as a love letter to his ex-wife: “There has never been a time when I didn’t want to be your boyfriend… I know I’m going to marry you someday…” It is heartbreaking in its earnestness, revisionist history, and, of course, the knowledge that somewhere along the line all that sentiment turned sour.

I genuinely appreciate that this album can be listened to on either level. I liked it a lot when I first heard it, even if I’d glossed over it’s finer points and enjoyed it just for the general feel and mood of the music. Then, today, digging deeper and getting a real feel for what the songs are about, I find much more depth and substance than I’d have guessed existed here.

Happy 19th anniversary, American Movie Vol. 2… It has been a pleasure revisiting this disc, especially having discovered it only recently. If I hadn’t already liked what I know of this band’s output, doing a deep dive on this record today would have made me a fan and kept me on the lookout for their other albums when I’m out and about. 

Until the next time, keep those discs spinning.

4 thoughts on “On This Day: Everclear – Songs From An American Movie Vol. 2: Good Time For A Bad Attitude

  1. Pingback: Hello, My Treacherous Friends Vol. 16 | Hello, My Treacherous Friends

  2. Oddly enough, this is the album of theirs I am least familiar with, so I can’t say if this album is the best example of their songwriting. There was a while in the late 90s when I was a big fan of the band, but I rarely give them a listen lately, except their hits as part of my late 90’s playlist. My gut tells me that the albums preceding the two Songs from an American Movie volumes were better all-around.

    Liked by 1 person

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