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PERFECTLY EVERCLEAR

Everclear's Art Alexakis doesn't buy into the tortured-rock-star syndrome. "A lot of bands are kind of whiny, if you ask me," says the vocalist/guitarist. "If you're playing guitar and getting paid for it, that's a pretty good job, I think. I've worked plenty of jobs, and I know a good job from a bad job. And this is definitely one of the good ones."

Alexakis and his comrades--bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund--have had little to complain about ever since Sparkle and Fade, the Portland-based trio's strapping new release on Capitol Records, started bulldozing through its competition on the college- and commercial-radio rosters. At last check the disc was rising on both Billboard and CMJ listings, and the single "Heroin Girl" was being added to the playlists of modern-rock stations across the country. If these trends continue, Everclear could wind up as this summer's alternative dark horse.

For his part, Alexakis says he's startled by how well the platter has done thus far. "It's pretty amazing. We had no idea that it would do this well. `Heroin Girl' was really just meant to introduce the band. It was supposed to be sort of like our calling card. We never meant for it to be the big hit single off the record or anything--that is, assuming there was a hit single."

The guitarist needn't worry about followups. From the scorching "Electra Made Me Blind" to the poignant, larger-than-life "Santa Monica" and "My Sexual Life," Fade is teeming with potential chartbusters. In fact, listening to the record's panoramic hooks and infectious, no-nonsense riffs, one can't help but draw comparisons to another highly successful power trio from the Pacific Northwest--namely, Nirvana. Both acts kicked off their careers with cheap, less-than-eventful debuts: Nirvana's Bleach was said to have cost $600 to produce, while Everclear recorded its first offering, the murky World of Noise, for a mere $400. In addition, the acts each recorded their major-label bows at Butch Vig's Smart Studios (although in the case of Sparkle and Fade, Alexakis, not Vig, was the man behind the boards).

Is this a case of rock history repeating itself? Alexakis doubts it, but even he sees a few parallels between his threesome and the makers of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

"Nevermind was an incredible record," he notes. "But I wouldn't say we sound anything like Nirvana. I guess there are similarities, though. Like, Bleach was originally intended to be a demo, just like World of Noise. Neither one of them was meant to be the final product.

"I mean, Noise was good for what it was," he continues. "It was a demo. We did it in a few days. But Sparkle and Fade is a real album. This is the album that I've always dreamed of making. We had a real budget, a real studio, a great engineer. Me and the band were able to do it exactly the way we wanted to do it."

Of course, there are other differences, too. For instance, Alexakis's lyrics openly condemn the use of drugs such as heroin--allegedly Cobain's narcotic of choice. The aforementioned "Heroin Girl," especially, paints a grim portrait of chemical abuse. "The policeman says/`Just another overdose,'" the song's protagonist laments shortly after discovering that his girlfriend's body has grown cold and stiff from rigor mortis. "I wish I could go back in time."

This is a repellent picture not unlike ones that Alexakis, a former user, has seen himself. "That lifestyle is ugly, man," he points out. "I don't care to be around it. I see a lot of these musicians from Seattle who come to Portland to cop their dope, and it's frustrating. But you know, hey--people are going to go to hell in their own way.

"I don't hang around people who do drugs anymore," he goes on. "Not because it makes me feel like I want to do drugs again. I just don't want to be around it. It's fucking gross."

Fortunately, Alexakis, who's been sober for eleven years now, has found better things to do with his time: He's married, has a three-year-old daughter named Anna Bella and has just purchased his first house. As a result, he's trying to adjust to the unfamiliar role of family man/ rock star. "It's a tightrope you've got to balance," he admits. "It ain't easy, but I'm doing my best. I mean, I'm going through a lot of pressures and a lot of anxieties right now because of this record. I want security for my family, but I won't have it unless I have success. So there's a lot of stress. But I'm learning to manage that, and I'm learning to be a good father and a good husband."

He laughs, adding, "I'm just trying to keep my shit together like anybody else, you know."

Everclear, with Hagfish and Bracket. 9 p.m. Saturday, July 29, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $8, 830-TIXS or 322-2308.

 
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