While typically grouped in with other alternative groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Everclear boasted a sound and style that is distinctly their own. The songs, while primarily co-written by all three members of the band, draw largely on the life experiences of frontman Alexakis. His lyrics chronicle failed relationships and drug abuse, and generally paint a rather bleak outlook on life. In contrast to some of Kurt Cobain's more impressionistic lyrics, Everclear's songs tend to be more straightforward.
Of the pair of albums, Sparkle is the more raw effort while Afterglow begins to add more polish to Everclear's sound. This progression can be seen even more clearly when taking a look at the band's body of work from 1993's World of Noise (originally released on the small Tim/Kerr label and subsequently reissued on Capitol) to the two volumes of Songs from an American Movie in 2000. Sparkle's tracks are visceral and punchy, with a post-punk feel. Songs such as "Heroin Girl" and "You Make Me Feel Like a Whore" hit you like a punch. "Santa Monica" was biggest success from the album and somehow manages to be bleak and somewhat hopeful all at the same time. It is the strongest cut on the album and would point towards Everclear's next album.So Much for the Afterglow remains the group's bestselling album and it is easy to see why. The band's musical palette has been expanded with new instruments and a new sheen brought to the songs. The band began to play around with different sounds. Despite the group hailing from Portland, a distinctly California vibe infuses the record. You can even hear strains of The Beach Boys in some of the songs. While much of the inspiration for the music comes from the same place as on previous albums, the craft is more refined. The lyrics still contain much of the cynicism and bleakness of Sparkle, but they reflect more universal themes, like the pain of abandonment in "Father of Mine." The melodies and sound also have evolved away from the punk side of things to a more pop-oriented vein. All in all, it makes for a more accessible album.
Somewhat surprisingly for music of this era, this is not the first time that these two albums have been released in the LP format. Both appeared on vinyl at the time of their original release; Sparkle even came out on cassette as well. On the audiophile front, Afterglow received a DVD-Audio release in 2003. However, the sound on these new presentations is largely unparalleled. Though Sparkle was recorded on analog tape, it was never fully assembled in analog. All of the final mixing was performed in the digital realm, with the original tapes archived in high-resolution digital. Universal supplied Intervention with flat 96/24 files of the tapes as well as copious notes as to which files contained the final mixes, sound effects, crossfades, and so on. Mastering engineer Kevin Gray and Intervention's Shane Buettner then assembled the vinyl release with meticulous care and an ear for sonic detail so as to replicate the sound of the original album (most familiar in its CD version) with the warmth that only pristine vinyl can offer. Sparkle never sounded or looked so stunning; it's housed in a sturdy, Stoughton-printed single pocket gatefold sleeve with the lyrics reprinted in the gatefold, and the vinyl LP bears a classic purple Capitol label.
So Much for the Afterglow, like its predecessor, was captured on analog tape but not assembled in that format, so once again the mastering source is a set of 96/24 high resolution files straight from the Universal Music vault. You'll bask in the afterglow of this crisp, clean and quiet vinyl pressing crafted by Gray and Buettner. The detailed sonics give this set of more pop-oriented songs true room to breathe. The LP packaging is once again truly impressive, with the heavy-stock, single-pocket, Stoughton-printed gatefold containing full lyrics. In another wonderful touch, the label is the original Capitol rainbow label. These releases are worth a listen for all Everclear fans equipped with a turntable (and for rock fans looking to discover a pair of underrated rock classics from the 1990s) and not simply for audiophiles alone.
Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow are undoubtedly products of their time and of the alternative movement. But that doesn't mean that they don't hold up today. They've aged quite well as frenetic ruminations on the somewhat seedier and depressing sides of life. These new audiophile-quality vinyl releases from Intervention might even make you hear things you didn't hear before. Bask in the afterglow!
Both titles are available now: