1993: Everclear - World of Noise

OK, just fucking hear me out. I know it’s not cool to rep Everclear in 2019. They’re the epitome of 90s soccer mom rock. They’re like if the concept of the minivan got together with Applebee’s to form Ellen Degeneres’s house band. But the thing is, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when Art Alexakis was young and hungry and ready to take the paint off the walls. Before the nostalgia tours, before the double albums of stultifying chamber pop, before even their star-making breakout single “Santa Monica,” Everclear was a scrappy indie band out of Portland with no major label prospects and nothing to lose. World of Noise, their full-length debut, is the definitive document of that band.

Recorded in a friend’s basement for just $400, World of Noise is a quintessentially indie affair. Its no-fi production got a spitshine from Capital when they reissued it following the band’s rise to prominence, but even still it has fangs. The lineup at the time included bassist Craig Montoya and original drummer Scott Cuthbert, but the real star of the show is Alexakis’s malfunctioning Fender Super Twin amp. Its blown 6L6 tube lent the guitar work a sort of sludgy girth, bathing the music in a patina of feedback both sharp and soothing. The squeals it would emit when Alexakis struck the wrong chord dot the album’s best tracks like a tiny metallic signature.

“Fire Maple Song” is the offering to be most likely familiar to fans. A live staple of the band (at least through the 90s) and reinterpreted several times on some of their smaller releases, it was the clearest indicator of the direction Everclear were heading, as well as Alexakis’s talent for writing massive earworms. The song introduces itself with a lazy, country-inflected melody and builds methodically to an incendiary (pun absolutely intended; fite me) climax, flexing the quiet-loud dynamics that Nirvana had made ubiquitous and that Everclear themselves would use to great effect on subsequent singles. Alexakis’s lyrical predilections are on full display as well, a mixture of nostalgia and curdled romanticism shot through with frank discussion of mental illness, but they are delivered with a conviction that he’d never muster again. “I still see you in the night/ Lying above me in the grass/ I can’t smile,” he wails at the memory of his estranged loved one, and the raw, ragged sound of his voice imbues the lines with a resonance not reducible to the words alone.

But “Fire Maple Song” is just the surface. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll strike gold immediately. Album opener “Your Genius Hands” is built around a dynamite riff and pushed toward an even dizzier sense of abandon by the squall. “The Laughing World” was an automatic inclusion on every mixtape I scraped together in high school. Clocking in at just over two minutes of almost more reverb than riff, it embraces the conceit put forward in the album’s title without reservations, and the “burning car in the sun” image of its second verse is a neat encapsulation of the record’s aesthetic of sonic self-immolation.

The very best song on World of Noise, however, is buried all the way at track eight. “Sparkle” begins with a hazy guitar coda, the shrieks and whines from the busted amp trailing behind Alexakis’s fretwork like the afterglow of a pleasant trip. The song gathers momentum with the addition of Cuthbert’s hastening drumbeat, and then Alexakis launches into a Jeremiad against a one-time hero turned “corporate whore.” It’s the snottiest of kiss-offs, the wounded ravings of a guy who can’t envision selling out because he doesn’t yet realize he has in him a thing anyone would be willing to buy. I often wonder if present-day Art Alexakis is haunted by the specter of his younger self, mocking his “stupid bleach blond hair” and eternally asking “I wonder why you changed/I liked you when you were super loud.”

World of Noise exists in a weird no man’s land, underappreciated by the band’s own fans due to its rougher exterior and virtually unknown to the broader indie-loving public because Everclear are about as unhip ast 90s radio rock got (Ha! Just kidding! It got so. Much. Worse.) Still, it’s an album ripe for rediscovery. Devotees of shambolic indie rock will find a brisk, richly textured gem from a band that had something to prove and wanted the world to know it. They would go on to scale greater commercial heights, but at the cost of becoming more bland and solipsistic with every release. Thankfully, we’ll always have World of Noise as a reminder of a time when Everclear were raw, wild, and super loud.

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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