Everlast’s (real name: Erik Schrody) 1998 hit What It’s Like was so wildly popular that plenty of people who DIDN’T know what it was like still learned all the words before they realized that the song’s finger-pointing-but-non-judgmental lyrics were aimed at them. It was a prominent enough track to help him sell almost three million copies of the record, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, but can you name another single from this album? No? Neither can I? Before we get further, I want to remind you of the catchy, seemingly skillful composition of “What It’s Like.”
His most recent solo release, “The Life Acoustic” is, at least in sound, similar to his biggest hit, but starkly different from the myriad collaborations he’s been a part of. It takes his previously released but unknown solo tracks, strips them down, and lets his voice take center stage. Unfortunately, this is an album that feels like it’s trying and failing to be good enough for radio play on a rock station. There may even be a few tracks composed to head intentionally to adult contemporary purgatory. (All I can hear in Broken is Hootie and the Blowfish, but less vocally skilled.)
This is going to be a mostly critical review, so if you’re an Everlast fan, I’d recommend you take pause before continuing. Musically, this album feels stale, derivative and not carefully composed or completely thought through. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a seriously lack of competence that we’re only finally able to fully see in this record. After quite a few careful listens, I do not hear more than four or five chords in most of the songs, all of which begin with Everlast speaking the title of the tune into his microphone. Then the guitar comes in, followed soon after by keyboard or piano. I like simplicity in my music, but these tracks feel lazy to me, formulaic. It’s as if were rearranged and recomposed in a day and recorded in one take 24-hours later.
But worse is that Everlast’s recognizable, gritty, often almost-off-key vocals sound just as careless as the composition. He sings through most of the record. I found myself so distracted by how out of place his voice sounded, that I was sometimes able to forget there were even strings being strummed behind him. I heard pieces without a whole; genres being haphazardly thrown together into one song without consideration of the audience. (My Medicine is a good example of this.)
My last criticism here is that most of what this album conveys lyrically is adulthood, its underlying resentments, its unforgiving nature. The songs that Everlast chose to feature here are all about sort of resigning yourself to loneliness and responsibility, but doing so knowingly. Ultimately, though, I think I prefer him when he’s angry.
“The Life Acoustic” was released on August 27, 2013 on Martyr Inc. Records. It is available on iTunes here.