ONE OF THE realities of contemporary culture is the prevalence of marriage breakdown. For the past two generations, the church has taken steps to deal pastorally with this reality.
If one good thing has come out of the change in cultural mores associated with marriage, it is the argument that people in general and the church in particular deal far more comfortably and effectively with marriage breakdown today than was the case a few decades ago. The church relates more effectively to the reality of a marriage’s end. It affirms God’s will for a permanent marriage covenant while recognizing the reality that this does not always happen.
If there is a contemporary band and a contemporary band leader for whom the reality of divorce and its ramifications has been the creative spark behind the music, it is Everclear and the band’s front man, Art Alexakis. For the past 10 years, this group has fused classic pop storytelling with a hard-rocking west coast grunge sound.
[pullquote] Alexakis’ motivation to create has been his troubled childhood. Years of alcohol and drug addiction preceded Everclear’s arrival in the ’90s rock scene, and those years of troubled early adulthood were themselves preceded by a sad home life.
When he was 6, Alexakis’ father deserted his family and refused to pay child support. This left wounds, and they were never clearer than on the band’s last big hit, Father of Mine. The wounds are also clear on such past songs as 1995’s Santa Monica and 1997’s I Will Buy You A New Life.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Alexakis is 38, and is recently divorced, with a 5-year-old daughter. Things, though, are different. Alexakis has shared custody of Annabella and a cordial relationship with his ex-wife. In fact, both of Annabella’s parents are now remarried.
Always one to use his life as an artistic springboard, Alexakis has delivered in Everclear’s new CD, Songs From An American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How To Smile, a relatively poppy song cycle that takes one through the early years of his marriage, its dissolution, and the aftermath. The scars of his own childhood remain, as frequent references are made to childhood years in the ’70s.
“Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now,” he pleads to his mother on the album’s lead single, Wonderful.
Alexakis’ involvement with his daughter is evident most obviously on the album’s first song, Song From An American Movie Pt. 1, and its last song, Annabella’s Song, with its earnest promise “you are never alone.”
The former sees Alexakis declare: “The only thing that ever made sense in my life / Is the sound of my little girl laughing … / Makes me happy just to be alive.”
In a recent interview, Alexakis explained, “There are so many children of divorce now that there is a blueprint for how to act. In the ’60s and ’70s, they didn’t have anything to learn from.”
The Christian listener may lament the secular world view of the album but the reality is that Alexakis’ plight and scenario are typical of our age. The challenge for the Christian church is to reach out in love and acceptance amidst the brokenness of fallen creation. Wilfred Langmaid is Anglican chaplain of the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, and music critic for the Fredericton Gleaner.