CD Review of Never Going Back To OK by The Afters
Recommended if you like
The Click Five, Jack’s Mannequin,
The Afters:
Never Going Back To OK

Reviewed by Mike Farley


allas band the Afters write crafty pop that rides the fence between hookmasters the Click Five and piano-driven rock like Jack’s Mannequin. In other words, this is material that is tailor-made for a show like “One Tree Hill.” The band’s latest, Never Going Back to OK, is not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s undeniably infectious and easy on the ears. What’s more, you don’t have to be a teenybopper to appreciate it. Good melodies and hooks just never go out of fashion, and the Afters deliver them all throughout these 12 tracks.

After a very short (under two minutes) opening track called “The Secret Parade,” which sounds, well, almost Beatlesque (what with swirling, pretty harmonies), The Afters launch right into the pop with the title track -- a driving, guitars-blazing song that’s as slick and hooky as anything on here. There are plenty of slow, piano-pulsing MTV/WB-type songs, in particular “Keeping Me Alive” and “Falling Into Place.” But don’t let that scare you, unless of course you run fast and far from that stuff. The catchiest track of all is “Myspace Girl,” which manages to be both timely and pure ear candy. Then there are some songs that are pure modern rock bliss, edgy and cool -- such as “Tonight” and “We Are the Sound.” Maybe there are two or three songs too many, and the Afters should hold back for their next album, but with a pretty ballad, “Summer Again,” near the end, maybe that’s just being nitpicky.

Major labels continue to shrink, merge, and release less and less music – and that, for the most part, has left a lot of great bands in the cold. But every once in a while, they surprise us, as Columbia Records has done with the Afters. Now, whether or not they can keep the band on board long enough to breed success, that’s the million-dollar question. But for now, the Afters are well worth a few iTunes downloads and then some.

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