|On their fourth release for Capitol Records, the Portland, Oregon band reveal an expanded musical range and willingness to kick down new doors, demonstrating hook-filled pop chops while maintaining the sound that makes the band instantly recognizable. Along with incorporating instruments such as horns and strings, ALEXAKIS--singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer--delves deeper into his psyche than before, working through the changes brought on by fractured relationships. "The album gives you ups and downs," says ALEXAKIS about LEARNING HOW TO SMILE. "It goes up and down, like life does." |
Originally conceived as a solo album, LEARNING HOW TO SMILE evolved into a group effort when ALEXAKIS brought in CRAIG MONTOYA and GREG EKLUND to provide some extra punch to songs he had already written. The results crackled, and they stayed for the entirety of the record, setting the stage for the follow-up to 1997's double platinum SO MUCH FOR THE ATERGLOW (which earned the band Billboard magazine’s 1998 Modern Rock Artist of the Year Award) and the 1995 million-selling breakthrough SPARKLE AND FADE.LEARNING HOW TO SMILE (produced by ALEXAKIS) is a music-lover's record, a fact testified to by the multiple nods the band makes to other recording artists. EVERCLEAR glazes its unique sound on a cover of Van Morrison's classic "Brown Eyed Girl" and samples Public Enemy's Chuck D on "Here We Go Again." A yearning, hypnotic number is titled "Otis Redding," while the butt-shaking riff from Jean Knight's 1971 "Mr. Big Stuff" kicks off the nostalgic "AM Radio."