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Everclear

Songs From an American Movie Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude (Capitol)

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Everclear is as good as a generic band can get. Even when the group adds glossy production, strings, sampled beats or rootsy twang, its songs still come off sounding like the type of three-power-chord grunge-pop that even Green Day has started to abandon. The melodies are always memorable, and lead singer Art Alexakis has the art of apolitical yet socially aware "us versus them" outcast songwriting down cold. At his best, he creates believable hard-luck characters and places them in vivid, memorable scenarios. At his worst, he endlessly recycles the same themes to the point of self-parody. (Hey, Billy Corgan stopped talking about his crappy childhood by his fourth album.)

The nicest, meanest and most honest thing that can be said for Good Time for a Bad Attitude is that it's more of the same, this time with more emphasis on hard rock (fewer ballads, louder drums). The album opens with "Slide" and "When It All Goes Wrong Again," two midtempo surefire hits that are, unfortunately, almost the exact same song. Bad Attitude also delivers instrumental filler ("Halloween Americana"), a sappy love tune ("The Good Witch of the North") and an S&M-themed country stomper ("Misery Whip"). The impact of "Rock Star," a hilarious mockery of overly serious rock scenesters, is dulled by the whiny "Short Blonde Hair," during which Alexakis disingenuously complains about how much it sucks to be famous.

Bad Attitude was the second Everclear album released in 2000, and while it's a stronger record than the friendlier Learning How to Smile, both releases saw their considerable virtues obscured by uneven quality and unwieldy titles (both are saddled with the preface Songs From an American Movie). A best-of compilation from the two discs would prove that Everclear is at the top of its game with its current trick, but it would also suggest that the group is unwilling, or unable, to learn a new one.

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