‘Everything To Everyone’ would have to be in my Top Five of all Time if we’re discussing negatively-tinged pieces of post-grunge pop music that I actually use to make myself feel better about having a terrible night’s sleep. Without getting all High Fidelity about it, once you take Hole or Sleater-Kinney or, you know, Linkin Park (post-grunge and rap-rock were strange bedfellows for about a year there) out of the equation, there’s only one three-piece of fuck-ups who didn’t spend all their time talking about boobs (Blink-182) or bongs (Green Day) in the middle of the most awesome decade since the ’60s, but concentrated on bigger issues, like mortality, the future and how to acquire both bongs and boobs at the same time. However atrocious the morning seems beneath the fire of a thousand suns, blasting Everclear at a level so intense that other commuters will literally stare at you on the bus like you have two heads will fix it. Patently, because when Art Alexakis talks about himself and his friends, he’s also talking about you and me and everyone we know. For a brief moment there, this Portland band were at least somewhat thematically universal. Let’s dive in.
As it turns out, Everclear’s better album isn’t their most popular. The 1995 debut which housed the brilliance that is ‘Santa Monica’ and the pummeling triptych of ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Whore’, ‘Summerland’ and ‘Heroin Girl’ was no match for a proper budget and some spit-shine. Like Weezer, who veered off to the left to make Pinkerton after carving their names into every tree trunk in middle America with the Blue Album, Everclear kind of tanked post-Sparkle and Fade. It would take until record number three, the third in three years, no less, to bring them back in a big big way. And there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind – particularly the programmers at TRL who smashed it onto their playlist over and over again in 1997 – about which song flipped the switch. ‘Everything To Everyone’ is classic Everclear, right down to that revolving four chord riff that has so many layers piled on top of it that you actually delude yourself into thinking your listening to something complicated. There were many weird bands circling the No. 1 spot that these guys managed to snag at the end of 1997; indeed, they were preceded by Chumbawumba and knocked out by Marcy Playground. But the ones who really killed it in the longterm were the ones who knew that great riffs weren’t enough – you had to have serious personality. And after you factored in his gender-bending, drug-fuelled, self-destructive beach-side narrative, ‘personality’ was pretty much Art Alexakis’ middle name. As much as his lyrics helped make sense of his world, his delivery, that urgent, pitch-perfect Oregon belter of an alto, really rammed them home. In anyone else’s hands “You do what you do/you say what you say/You try to be, everything to everyone” would sound utterly pedestrian. With Art, they sounded convincing.
It’s not hard to see why this song was a success; it really gave that lazy, overdrive-heavy grunge noodling a kick in the teeth and forced it to shine its shoes and stand up straight. And yes, while it was this precise attitude which would see Everclear striding into the new millennium with woeful odes to Volvo Driving Soccer Moms, there was a small window where the balance had not yet tipped and they achieved alternative pop Nirvana. It was the point where they stopped sounding like Nirvana. ‘Everything To Everyone’, which turns the ‘You’ subject inward and ultimately sees the speaker criticising himself, is beautifully simple, but still complex enough to bring you back. It’s the odd choices, like that atonal guitar wine which sounds like a slowed-down American ambulance bringing in the chords, or those drum heads wound so tight that Greg Eklund actually sounds like he’s bouncing up and down while he beats them. It’s that bass that is so obviously in debt to Krist Novolesic, but still has such a clean tone, allowing Art to drop in slides and bends and fades that turn this song from a light snack into a whole fucking icing cake. And it’s American, man. It’s so goddamn American. The acoustic guitars doubling the root notes before launching into distortion. The bends that are borrowed from country, the intonation that’s swiped from blues, the backing vocals from power pop. There is no single song that makes me happier to wallow in self-loathing and then throw it over my shoulder and get on with the day than this. There is art at work here.
Indulge in the worst side of yourself. You’ll be punching the air in victory before you even realise.
Everclear – ‘Everything To Everyone’