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Hello, everybody, and welcome to this week's installment of The Stage. Las week, I covered the first half of the Everclear album Song From an American Movie Vol 1: Learning How to Smile in an effort to explain the art of the concept album. As is to be expected, this week I shall wrap up my discussion of this album.

Now That It's Over: Okay. I have to be honest. Although this is one of my favourite songs on the album, I have to admit that i feel it was poorly placed. I think this song belongs after Unemployed Boyfriend, a song I shall be covering presently. The best guess that I can offer is that it was placed here for the stark contrast between the calm ukulele of The Honeymoon Song and the yell of "Yeah, right" and driving drums of this song. It is quite obvious even upon first listen what this song is about. This is a break-up song. Many of us had gone through a break-up at one time or another where you wonder how you are supposed to act with your ex now that you are not together anymore. "Maybe we can be friends...Yeah, right."You're miserable, and part of you wants to get back together with the person and take whatever contact you can get and another part of you wants to "find the words to tell you to politely go fuck yourself."

Thrift Store Chair: This is one of the songs that Art has claimed to be most proud of on this album, and for good reason. This song is simply about being in a relationship and noticing that something is missing. He finds himself alone in the middle of the night, smoking cigarettes, listening to John Prine and wondering where his marriage went. "I lay in the bed in the dark and all that I can see is the distance that grows between us." In only 2 minutes, he very clearly explains that things are falling apart.

Otis Redding: This song very well could be explaining what is going through Art's mind as he sits in that thrift store chair. At first glance this song seems simply like a list of problems that have been overcome by the couple in the past, but there's a deeper meaning there. This is a couple that was happy together living off of ramen noodles in a crummy basement apartment, and now the relationship seems to be ending. This is a song about longing. "I wish i could be like all my heroes. I wish i could be like all yours, too...How I wish I had one more life to live." But this is also a song of revelation. That sometimes just wanting something isn't enough. "I don't want to live inside this daydream anymore...I don't wanna be blind."

Unemployed Boyfriend: This is the song that may take the longest, and is a key example of how a concept album can work. At first listen, without hearing or understanding the rest of the album, this song comes off as a silly love song. Once you realize that this is a concept album, it completely changes the meaning of the song. We know that Art is a musician, but that they have hit upon some hard times. We know that Art and his girlfriend have married, but they are starting to lose their spark. Art revealed in interviews that while he was on tour with Everclear once, he came home to find out from his wife that she had cheated on him while he was gone. This song is told through the perspective of the other guy.

If look at the lyrics very carefully, you can see that everything the guy says is nothing but a series of cheesy come-on lines. He says "I will never be your unemployed boyfriend," yet they meet at the unemployment office. He says that he first saw her at 2 different places, he makes a lot of empty promises (including a promise to always make her cum), and - one of the biggest clues in this song - berates her current boyfriend, Art. "I heard you sleep with that obnoxious guy. I know he is in that famous band." And the biggest clue of all comes from Art himself. The woman in the song tell her friend the story of meeting this guy and says "Can this be for real?" and Art conveniently happens to yell "No!" in the background vocals.

Wonderful: This is yet another song that stood completely on it's own as a single, has it's own storyline, and is one of only 2 songs in the complete Songs From an American Movie storyline to be told from the point of few of someone other than Art. This Song is from the point of view of his daughter Annabella. Her parents have now divorced and she doesn't quite know how to deal with it. She hides in her room and wishes for it all to be a bad dream that she can just wake up from. She hopes for her parents to just fix whatever is broken and wishes for things to be like they were before. She goes to school and laughs a lot to hide from how she feels at the thought of returning home. And she doesn't want to here her parents tell her how someday she will understand and that she can grow from this. She doesn't want to see her parents dating other people, she wants everything to be back the way it was, and cannot understand how her parents can look at her crying and say that everything will be wonderful someday.

Annabella's Song: This is where we come back to Art Alexakis and how he is coping with everything. He and his wife are divorced now, plus he i always on tour Everclear. His life is in a very frightening place right now, and he understands how his daughter must feel as well. And he realizes how much both of them need each other. Although he never really took it for granted before, he is appreciating more and more the time he and his daughter share. "I feel I'm running out of time to say the things I need to say." And he realizes just how important she is and although his marriage may not have worked he still can take care of her. "I want to make this world be just all you want it to be...Anna, you are never alone." And he also feels that she is his salvation in this dark time. "You just don't understand you are my everything."

And so concludes act one of this story. For those of you who are curious, I currently am not planning on covering Vol. 2: Good Time For a Bad Attitude unless i am asked to cover it. I feel that once Vol. 1 has been explained, Vol. 2 is pretty self-explanatory. Plus I feel that the story is not as strong as in this album and that many of the sentiments are repeated on several songs in Vol. 2. I also feel that Vol. 1 is strong enough in and of itself to be a complete story. Now I do urge you all to go out and buy every album that Everclear has ever made, even if you already own a copy. If you insist on only buying or downloading one album in Everclear's catalogue, then I would recommend this album. Now that Everclear has disbanded (at least in the line-up that their fans have grown familiar with) I can safely say that this is the best album of Everclear's entire career. Not only is every song on the album good (with the possible exception of the Honeymoon Song.), but this album shows just how talented Art Alexakis is of a songwriter, storyteller, and musical producer and arranger.

If you have not heard this album yet, perhaps I have encouraged you to do so. If you have heard it, perhaps now you will hear it in a new way. I would like to thank those of you who stuck it out with me and went on this wonderful journey. Maybe now you also listen to some of your other albums in a whole new way, and discover concept albums you didn't even know you owned. And if any of your figures out exactly what the story is in Marilyn Manson's Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), please e-mail me and let me know!

_______________________

For questions, comments, or future column suggestions, e-mail E.G. Evans at el_guitarro@hotmail.com. He may work them into the concept album he is writing about the frustrated columnist that can't seem to come up with any idea on his own and is saved by a suggestion from a fellow writer just when he was about to go on a murderous rampage.


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Comments

The following comments are for "The Stage: Finding Art"
by E.G. Evans

Spelling?
Spelling errors, eh?...i have to put less faith in technology. Damn spell check on shareware programs! Unless you are refering to my using old english spelling of words to which i say "Foo on you and your fancy American ways...yes, i know i'm from Indiana, but still, i stand by...ah, nevermind."

As for other albums, i only did this one to explain the fine and lost art of the concept album, so i don't see any other album commentaries other than reviews in the near future, but i haven't listened to Dave's "Some Devil" yet, so never say never...

( Posted by: E.G. Evans [Member] On: June 10, 2004 )





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