We all have those songs or those artists whose signature sound possesses the ability to transport us back to a specific time in our lives. Maybe it was college, maybe it was high school. Maybe it was a particular job or vacation that we have connected to a specific time in our lives. Just about anyone in their 20s or older will have music that, to them, means teenhood, high school, and sudden freedoms that never existed before the introduction of the car to the equation. For me, this includes a handful of sounds, but among them a spawn of the Portland, Oregon music scene, Everclear.
To the general public, it has appeared that Everclear has been on hiatus since the 2006 release of Welcome to the Drama Club. In reality, the Drama Club album was followed by two commercially unsuccessful re-examination albums. The first, In a Different Light (2009), was an attempt to give their solid radio hits a more introspective feel. The second, Return to Santa Monica (2011), took those hits and intermingled them with a scattering of cover songs.
However, those two releases aside, Invisible Stars is the band’s first completely original studio album in six years and is more accurately a “return to Santa Monica.” In another of those “hit the nail on the head,” career summation moments, the album’s eighth track, “Aces,” has Art Alexakis singing, “We found a way to make money out of broken boys and difficult girls/Reality is wonderful/.../We can make a good living out of broken lives and empty hearts.” Extending from that statement, the songs of Invisible Stars tell stories of toxic relationships, struggles for equality, and social attitudes.
Invisible Stars sees Alexakis and company returning to the sound that made them stalwarts of the mid-to-late-'90s alt rock scene—a sound that could have carried them into the '00s, had they not strayed so far from it. The signature angst and combative attitude of the lyrics still works against the major chords and bright snares in a tug of war that strengthens the resolve of both sides instead of one defeating the other. Only the sixth track, “Wishing,” takes a distinct detour from that signature poppy radio rock sound, with Alexakis begging not to be left alone with what he’s made of his life, for better or worse. “Please don’t do to me the horrible things I did to you,” he pleads as the song fades to a close.