Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Art Alexakis had credibility problems in the alt-rock world he came out of. He was 33 when Portland-based Everclear began scoring hits in 1995, too old to pass muster as one of the grunge kids who were old news by then anyway, and the hits themselves, most notably Santa Monica and later Father of Mine, seemed suspiciously tuneful to purist scenesters. But credibility be damned--Alexakis had seen enough life to want durability, the kind only strong songwriting makes possible. The two-volume Songs From an American Movie (Capitol) is his bid for the brass ring--but also for credibility. Released a few months apart and sold separately, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile is candid pop that downplays loud guitars, while Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude rages along with bad boys like Limp Bizkit. The funny thing is, it's the pop record that's more believable; for Alexakis, rage seems something he recalls from his scuffling days. The rock songs are suitably skillful, but lack the emotional immediacy of those on Vol. 1, which is structured around a marriage breakup. No doubt he sometimes does feel Out of My Depth and All Fucked Up. But the most memorable performances here are The Good Witch of the North, a tribute to his new fiancee, and Rock Star, about how much he wanted to be one.


Rage Against the Machine wanted to be rock stars too, and did quite well at it until lead singer-rapper Zack de la Rocha found more important things to do. Renegades (Epic), a cover album conceived as a tribute to the band's influences a la Guns N' Roses' The Spaghetti Incident?, suggests that they broke up one album too late. Will the Stones or Cypress Hill feel honored? Only by their royalty checks.

Playboy, Dec. 2000


Nov. 2000 Jan. 2001