Sparkle and Fade

Everclear

Power Trio, Everclear, finds some level of mainstream success with their major label debut, Sparkle and Fade. Sitting squarely in the middle of the 90s (Released on May 23, 1995 and recorded in Madison, WI), Sparkle and Fade has a sound that captures all the decade has to offer - which makes sense as Everclear hails from Portland, Oregon, precisely in the middle of the LA and Seattle scenes. A dash of punk, a smidgeon of grunge, a dollop of mid-90s drug-rock grit, Sparkle and Fade sparkles in some places, and fades in others.

Fall, Glimmer, Sparkle and Fade: the story of Everclear's second album

Everclear was compared to Nirvana, and I can hear it, but I can also overlook it as the comparison isn’t a great match. There is a lot more straightfoward punk to be heard here.

The Sparkle and Fade album cover with the young versions of Art Alexakis, Greg Eklund, and Craig Montoya is forever burned in my skull. NO band did this. Bands (and labels) were WAY too concerned with artsy crap in the 90s.

Bold choice, Everclear. Bold.

Rating

I give Sparkle and Fade a 6.7510

A decently good 90s alt-rock album. That … is exactly what it is. It’s not Purple (STP) or Siamese Dream (Pumpkins).

Track listing

  1. Electra Made Me Blind (notes)
  2. Heroin Girl (notes)
  3. You Make Me Feel Like a Whore
  4. Santa Monica
  5. Summerland
  6. Strawberry
  7. Heartspark Dollarsign
  8. The Twistinside
  9. Her Brand New Skin
  10. Nehalem
  11. Queen of the Air
  12. Pale Green Stars
  13. Chemical Smile
  14. My Sexual Life

Sparkle and Fade notes

Electra Made Me Blind

A grunge alt/rock verse and chorus. A rhythmic solo (typical).

Heroin Girl

A 90s song through and through. Hard, a slight half talk, half sing verse. Only slightly more melody in the chorus, vocally.

Heroin Girl has got a California vibe with a midwest riff.

You Make Me Feel Like a Whore

A cross between Teen Spirit (Nirvana), Self Esteem (Offspring), and Possum Kingdom (Toadies), You Make Me Feel Like a Whore is not only a released single and (somewhat) commercially viable, but an actual decent tune as well.

Santa Monica

A 90’s power ballad.

Santa Monica combines the clean opening guitar riff with a country upstroke arpeggio to keep you interested. All before the sing-a-long chorus.

If 80s hair metal was about chicks, 90s alt-rock (and grunge to some extent) boasted of surf themes, a grittier upbringing, and pretty much all of the same drugs they were doing a decade prior.

Santa Monica layers on the instrumentation and the emphasis well. Always dug this tune. It’s overdone, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Summerland

Everclear tosses in some Sponge (Rotting PiƱata) chords to strong effect.

Always good to name drop your album title in a song. Actually, I applaud Alexakis for trimming the lyric, “Fall, Glimmer, Sparkle, and Fade”, to title Everclear’s second album.

Does Alexakis call out Summerland like it’s Wallyworld? I’m a bit confused. Anyone wanna help me out?

Strawberry

Don’t fall down now, you will never get up! I have NEVER forgotten this line, even though I lost my Sparkle and Fade CD years ago.

I love the electric guitar driving Strawberry with the background acoustic supporting it.

“Yes I guess I fucked up again” - the emphasis on this part is quite strong, the way they arrange it. The 80s would have had a huge dive bomb or a massive drum fill lying in wait after this line.

Heartspark Dollarsign

Ohhh, give me more tremolo.

Then give me … a Goo Goo Dolls chorus as a verse?!

Who am I kidding, I love Heartspark Dollarsign. Beyond it’s strong, positive stance on interracial relations, it’s just a great song.

Soul Asylum riffage all over Heartspark Dollarsign.

The Twistinside

The Twistinside is a pretty standard 90s tune about growing up, quite literally. I mean, it’s an ok tune.

It sounds like it employs a I-II-IV-V chord pattern. I don’t even have a guitar in front of me, the chorus just sounds that way.

Wait, is Everclear rolling out a guitar solo? It fits the song so well, and it’s not even that exciting.

The breakdown is though. That’s great stuff. Damn, 90s, always doing a bridge or a breakdown better than their guitar solo.

Where the hell is Mike McCready (Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Mad Season, and more) when you need him!?

Her Brand New Skin

At a blistering 2:02, Her Brand New Skin gets right to the rock’n’roll point with its … acoustic guitar and bass?! Ok, chorus, there is the distortion.

Gotta thank Montoya for that nice acoustic bass.

Give Everclear this, they cover a lot of ground on Sparkle and Fade. I attribute that to Alexakis being in his 30s when it was recorded and released. Big difference between that and a bunch of young 20 somethings hailing from their mother’s garage.

Nehalem

Nehalem, whose population has increased 38% since Sparkle and Fade’s 1995 release, from ~230 to ~285, is a sharp look at small town USA.

20+ years ago, I had no idea what this song was about other than a girl who lost a baby and was leaving. And small town gossip. Plenty of that.

Queen of the Air

Love the Eklund drums to kick off Queen of the Air. Everclear finally allows Montoya roam on the bass guitar some on Queen of the Air. Actually, Eklund and Montoya finally feel like part of the band on this track.

Pale Green Stars

I’m telling you, musically, Sparkle and Fade covers a lot of ground. The lyrics revolve around a lot of drug use and a lack of parental guidance and leadership.

Chemical Smile

Is Chemical Smile the shortest song on the album at 1:49? Maybe.

Ok, let’s do this. I can feel the bruised shoulders and legs from the virtual mosh pit of a song like Chemical Smile. Forget live shows, I will just stay home and watch Empire Records from now on.

Total punk riff. Dig it.

My Sexual Life

More tremolo and clean guitar. Sounds like a reprise of the middle of Sparkle and Fade. Lyrically, Everclear loves leaning on the small town theme, you know, like John Cougar Mellencamp. You know, cause they have that very same gravitas.

Straightforward lyrics. Sounds like Alexakis is confused between teaching a lesson and getting some retribution from a love gone bad.

Sounds like Foo Fighters stole the outro riff for Times Like These. Check it out, I’m serious.