Afterglow Label: Arista
The star that was Sarah McLachlan once burned brighter in this galaxy than most could ever hope to. But like her much-heralded summertime celebration of women, The Lilith Fair, she too has quietly faded unnoticeably into oblivion. Her latest project, Afterglow, will do nothing in my red mind to resurrect her past fire.
On her first studio album in nearly seven years, McLachlan finds reason to wallow in conflict that once merely ignited her. She is older and, one would assume, wiser. Yes, yes, so I’m told. Her pain is now markedly mature and her inner toil must feel better being told. It still doesn’t make for easy or even pleasant listening. “Fallen” struts in like every McLachlan record before it, mid-tempo and accommodating to the musical senses. Her guitarist and song-writing cohort Pierre Marchand remains, as does a perfectly capable session band. But these songs are stale. “Fallen” comes and goes before you really even knew it was on, then “World on Fire” limps in and you quickly recall this is her first outing since 9/11. To that end, we are to endure the forced teachings of “Hearts break, hearts mend, love still hurts. Visions clash, planes crash, still there’s talk of saving souls.”
I don’t know, maybe it IS the post-9/11 cynic in me that cries “balk!” Sarah McLachlan used to entice me. She used to even challenge me. Her pleasure and her pain seemed real, regardless of my never coming closer than 100 yards to her at a concert. But this latest landmark falls flat. If you can garner enough yawns to survive “Stupid” and “Drifting,” a mamba-paced “Train Wreck” does more to relive 1997’s “Sweet Surrender,” The gentle, bedtime ballads “Push” and “Answer” are equally decent in a haunting and sober manner. And it’s not as if Afterglow is a complete disaster, not with those glistening McLachlan pipes. No, it’s more of a non-event. Above all else, it is just a real disappointment from a gal who used to shine like the North Star.