Never Going Back to OK
Music and message fuse seamlessly on the Afters’ Never Going Back to OK. The boisterous Christian foursome scored a career-launching hit with 2005’s “Beautiful Love,” and their sophomore album is a worthy follow-up, matching substantial talent with youthful brashness and optimism. The tracks grab the listener immediately thanks to high-gloss production (courtesy of Dan Muckala) and exciting melodies. Tunes like “The Secret Parade,” “Tonight,” “We Are the Sound” and “Forty-Two” gush with geyser-like force, driven by Matt Fuqua’s quick-chopping guitar and Mark Dodd’s clattering drums. Lead singer Josh Havens matches the high-flying mood of his bandmates, infusing such blazing rockers as “Keeping Me Alive” and the title track with unbridled idealism. Piano-centered ballads such as “Ocean Wide” catch the band’s more reflective side. The Afters take some interesting detours, offering some gorgeous Beatles-esque vocal harmonies on “The Secret Parade” and exploring thoughtful Paul Simon-style poetics on “Summer Again.” While most of the songs examine God’s role in the lives of believers, the band gets playful with modern love in “Myspace Girl.” Buoyant in sound and positive in content, Never Going Back to OK finds the Afters clearly headed in the right direction.