Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.


Songs From an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile

Art Alexakis has never hid his bitter childhood feelings. The Everclear frontman, in fact, has loaded his band's albums with mopey and self-pitying songs about his irresponsible father, his troubled adolescence, and his general displeasure with the path that led to adulthood. How many more times are we going to have to hear about his drug addiction and his now clean-and-sober rock star lifestyle? Plenty, if Songs From an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile is any indication.

Primarily a tribute to Alexakis's youth -- the good along with the bad this time -- Learning How to Smile is the first of two new records Everclear plans to release this year. And as that tag indicates, this is the "happy" album. Most of the cheerful times stem from Alexakis's memories of listening to the radio -- he listened to it while he was rolling joints in his car or on the way to his first concert, and it was his savior through those rocky years of his youth. Like Van Morrison's "Caravan" (more on him later), which celebrates the power and the glory of the transistor, Learning How to Smile finds its salvation through the airwaves.

But it's not enough that one of the songs here is called "AM Radio." Alexakis also has to name-drop John Prine, title a track "Otis Redding," and cover Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." Lest anyone think he's a '70s kid stuck in the '60s, he also slaps clunky samples and hip-hop beats over a few of the songs. But Alexakis is least exasperating when he falls back on his usual crutch: bitching about his childhood. The songs feature some big hooks, and the strings and little musical flourishes that adorn many of them are there to conceal the wrath beneath the surface. "Wonderful," the best thing here, is coated with a sing-along AM radio-ready chorus; the irony, of course, is that those little kid days weren't so wonderful. Other times, Alexakis delivers straight-faced, Hallmark-worthy lines to his daughter that imply that everything is all right now. It's a bit perplexing -- and typical of Alexakis. Learning How to Smile is both sincere and cynical; let's see if he can manage to crack the surface on volume two.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Michael Gallucci

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • The Temptations and the Four Tops @ MGM Northfield Park

    • Sun., Nov. 28
  • Songs of the Polka King Release Party with Joey Miskulin & the KTB @ Beachland Ballroom

    • Sun., Nov. 28
  • Jokes on You @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Last Sunday of every month

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation