For all those who purposely skipped over Everclear during the ‘90s, you missed out on a band that had furiously catchy songs with powerful messages — and you might be surprised by the retro power of the new album “Black is the New Black.” It’s undoubtably Everclear, but the guitar riffs are chunkier (ala Dave French), the chorus melodies aren’t overdone, and the essence of the songwriting is somehow darker. Perfect examples are Black is the New Black out-and-out rockers “Sugar Noise,” “Anything is Better Than This” and “This is your Death Song.” Most of the songs, in general, seem to center on hard-to-find redemption and the leftover anger an individual has to deal with. “Pretty Bomb” is advice on self-defense/reliance for the innocent and naive (“This will all make sense some day”). Vocalist Art Alexakis’s promise of “I will never give up on you” is as heartfelt as the melody in “Van Gogh’s Sun.” “American Monster” is a disturbing realization of the darker side of our society. While “Safe” (“In a world gone weird I just want to be safe”) hits home the most — on how the negativity of the world can make us seek a very strong shelter.
Does this make Everclear a better band now than in the ’90s? No. However, Everclear does sound refreshed, like a new energy source powering up a retro car again.