Art Alexakis isn't a happy guy. He's the poet laureate of falling apart, and his Everclear's latest album, Slow Motion Daydream, is no exception. But while the bandleader's hymns to broken souls ("Science Fiction"), disintegrating situations ("New Blue Champion") and a world gone wrong ("New York Times") tread a narrow lyrical path, he nevertheless is uniquely effective at conveying that sense of alienation, despondency and dread.

What saves it all from sinking into the over-romanticized, self-absorbed melancholia of, say, Billy Corgan, is that Alexakis refuses to take this as a reason to give up hope. His resolve to persevere in the face "of all the stupid things that I see" is the thematic thread that ties a very good album together. Having turned 40 last year, Alexakis is intent on instilling belief. On "Science Fiction, " he proposes, "Life is always getting better/For a while" and repeating over and over his desire to believe in this world, this life and the possibility of feeling all right.

Musically, the album rehashes Everclear's bag of tricks: crunchy riffs, soaring choruses, and a hook-heavy, orchestral approach that earned them a reputation as the Beach Boys of grunge. A nice mix of up-tempo and down-tempo tunes makes Daydream a better listen than 2000's twin albums Songs From an American Movie Vol. I & II, split as they were into pre- and post-divorce songs for a schizophrenic, monochromatic feel. Like 1998's standout So Much for the Afterglow, this album works as is, abetted by two soon-to-be radio staples, the insidiously catchy "I Want to Die a Beautiful Death," and the single "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom," a humorous anti-Republican screed that suggests what all the porn stars do when the lights go down.


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