Never Going Back to OK
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 1 Feb
- Secret Parade
- Never Going Back to OK
- Keeping Me Alive
- Ocean Wide
- MySpace Girl
- We Are the Sound
- Falling into Place
- Beautiful Words
- Summer Again
- One Moment Away
The Afters is not the sort of band I would expect to gain acceptance in
Three years is a long time to come up with a sophomore effort, though one can appreciate a band (and record label) willing to take their time for their follow-up. The Afters have since developed their skills and sound for
This isn't to say that the rest of
Three standout cuts demonstrate The Afters' range on this album. The title track is a bright, simple rocker about change and not settling for mediocrity. Gorgeous "Summer Again" is a melancholic ballad about the shifting of seasons. And "MySpace Girl" is a fun little pop/rock song inspired by the band's former bass player, who became interested in a girl he saw working at a fast-food restaurant, found her through MySpace, and eventually married her.
However, these three highlights also reveal a disappointing lack of specific lyrics to the band's overall songwriting. That title track never really explains what life was like before or after, so it's hard to assign much meaning to it. It's also unclear if "Summer Again" is a poetic expression of time, or a metaphor for seasons in a relationship. And if I hadn't told you the story behind "MySpace Girl," you could easily mistake it for a sweet sounding pop song about a stalker (not unlike "Every Breath You Take" by The Police).
How I wish this band had more substance to match their delightful sound. Considering how much flak bands like Switchfoot, Mute Math, and Relient K have taken for not being "Christian enough" in their lyrics, it's somewhat surprising The Afters are more easily embraced by believers. This album offers little beyond words about holding on to love while enduring fears and wading through tears—certainly compatible Christian themes, but they lack depth.
"Beautiful Words" is a fine song (and could pass for a slower version of "Beautiful Love"), but the title doesn't refer to the Bible as you might think, but rather a relationship: "We are words on pages that we've left unturned/An ending no one's ever heard/We are a story slowly unfolding." Initially, "Tonight" seems about reconciliation with Jesus ("Time after time I'm reminded that I fall apart when I run away from you/Even when every mistake leaves me broken and bruised, I can hold on to you"); other parts suggest otherwise ("We'll be who we want tonight … When tomorrow comes, we're gonna feel so alive.") And while "We Are the Sound" is meant to be a rocking call-to-action, it never provides a specific cause, belief, or idea we're meant to rally behind.
Rest assured, some songs touch on the band's beliefs more clearly, like "Falling into Place" ("I had to lose it all just so I could find out you were there to break my fall"). Though the title of "Forty Two" is never explained (biblical reference, or a tongue-in-cheek nod to the answer to life expressed in