I just got my first MP3 player — a Creative MuVo2 FM — and so last night I went through my CD collection in search of good music to listen to during my commute.
After several days of listening to the rich, complex, ethereal music of Noe Venable, I was ready for something raw, straight and simple. And I wanted lyrics that meant something, now that I would be in an environment where I could actually pay attention (as opposed to work, where I’m usually either reading or writing, which makes it hard to focus on lyrics).
I settled on Everclear’s underrated Sparkle and Fade.
In my opinion, Everclear made exactly one good record, and this is it. Art Alexakis’s deceptively simple post-punk songs are tight little narratives on difficult subjects — divorce, family secrets, interracial dating, and especially addiction and recovery. (Much of the album plays like a sort of soundtrack, or perhaps footnote, to Infinite Jest.) There are, of course, endless rock songs about addiction, but relatively few about the actual challenges and torments of recovery, from falling off the wagon (“Strawberry Burns”) to being driven insane by your chipper sponsor (“Her Brand New Skin”).
And then there are certain lyrics that just bring you up short, like the opening of “Nehalem”:
There is this rumor about
They say you’re leaving Nehalem
Ever since our baby died
You’ve been seen with another guy
Ever since our baby died? Holy shit.
“Heroin Girl,” which was a hit when the record came out, works by introducing you to its main character, letting you get to know her a little, and then showing you her lifeless body in a field. I chose the second song, “Pale Green Stars,” for the lyrics, which are (mostly) from the perspective of a father watching his relationship come apart and seeing the effect this is having on his daughter:
Scared little girl watching Aladdin on TV
Amanda always cries when you yell at me
Yeah, please don’t yell at me
Climb up all the stairs
Close the door
Doesn’t want to hear us fighting anymore
Yeah, better call it a day