Sparkle and Fade
Everclear
(1995)

Sparkle and Fade was the album that made Everclear a success and Art Alexakis the voice of his generation, just as Born to Run did for Bruce Springsteen exactly 20 years earlier. The two albums are similar, with working-class characters and an outside-the-mainstream point of view. Their characters are trying to run away from the straight world and themselves. Springsteen, however, writes fiction. He’s an observer; he stands back and lets it all be. With Alexakis, it’s memoir. He’s a participant. Also, in Alexakis’ world they’ve gone way beyond drinking a few warm beers in the soft summer rain.

Sparkle and Fade (and its sequel, So Much for the Afterglow) underline just one of the many difficulties I would face as a contemporary rock star. Memoir? What would I write about, teaching chess? My life looks like Mr. Run-DMSteve’s Neighborhood compared with this joker. For example, it would be instructive to compare the women Alexakis has been involved with with the women I’ve been involved with. Instructive, but dangerous. Instead, I’ll compare and contrast all of his women with Special D.

Composite Everclear Woman: Enjoys heroin.
Special D: Enjoys a nice Chardonnay with dinner.

Composite: Walks around in monster boots.
Special D: Never underestimate the importance of comfortable shoes to a woman.

Composite: Sleeps with the lights on due to fear of what the dark might bring.
Special D: Don’t try that at this house!

Composite: Makes questionable life choices.
Special D: Married me.

Composite: Mysterious, unknowable past.
Special D: At this point, I am her past.

Composite: Leaves without warning.
Special D: Reserves the right to divorce my ass.

Although the comparison is close in a couple of areas, it’s obvious that I won’t be writing songs like “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore,” “Chemical Smile,” or “Electra Made Me Blind” anytime soon. I’ll leave this sort of thing to the experts. Though my life has followed a different plot, Sparkle and Fade is one of my favorite albums of the ’90s – it’s Screaming Trees with intelligible lyrics. I think of it as Born to Run +20.

I want to hear what the next generation has to say, which, if they keep to this schedule, will be right around the corner in 2015. It probably won’t be about chess.

Rock journalism of the ’90s

The Promise Keepers came into being two years ago, after mutating from an equally tumultuous local combo, Slappy White. “[Slappy White] were bad back then,” Perini confesses. “It was noisy and funny, but it was really chaotic. We’re trying to control our chaos more, make it a little heavier.”

“Yeah, it’s not so much like get up there and play drunk as you possibly can, make a bunch of noise and insult people,” explains Pineschi. “It’s more like, ‘Well, maybe we should try to like still insult people and drink a lot, but kind of make it more focused.’ ”

(The Rocket, Seattle, 1998)

Tomorrow on ’90s Week: Thank God I’m a country boy!

Comments
  1. Michael Eichner says:

    Actually, you could write a rock song about chess, remember “One Night in Bangkok” by Tim Rice and those two ABBA guys?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I do, and thanks for mentioning it. This team wrote a whole musical, Chess (1984), and “One Night in Bangkok” was in heavy rotation for a while on MTV. “I Know Him So Well” was a hit in Europe. Special D was playing this just the other day. The musical is actually about relationships (personal first, international second). Chess is mostly confined to “One Night in Bangkok”: “I don’t see you guys rating/The kind of mate I’m contemplating/I’d let you watch, I would invite you/But the queens we use would not excite you.” ABBA’s finest moment!

  2. Laurel says:

    No, we ain’t easy, but we’re worth it. And who says NPR is out of it – I actually heard Everclear on KUOW yesterday (until then, I was sure you’d made them up).

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