Sleep Station - After The War
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 17, 2004
Review by Tony BonyataAren't there times when you really miss that old rock 'n' roll warhorse known as the 'concept album,' where a band intertwines a specific subject and narrative throughout an entire album?
Me neither. Because all too often these efforts either come off too bloated and pompous or, worse, loudly hints at a frustrated film director (usually of B-movie quality) lurking in the body of a musician.
So when I heard of the New Jersey-based rock band Sleep Station's latest concept album After The War - which chronicles the before and after effects of war on one soldier's life during World War II - it immediately conjured up a cringe. Sure Roger Waters pulled off a slightly similar theme with Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, but he was only one generation removed from that time. How could a young melodic rock band from Jersey possibly pull off a convincing story about a war that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought in? Sleep Station answers this question with a strong narrative that deals more with the human spirit and will of man than a historic account of a specific time and place.
These guys are certainly no strangers to the idea of the concept album. Their first full-length release Hang In There Charlie, dealt with an astronaut left to waste away alone in space, while their follow-up EP Von Cosol chronicled the real life story of a doctor in the 1930s who preserved the corpse of one of his patients and lived with it for nearly a decade.
Although After the War isn't quite as dark as their last effort, it does have deeper moments, as witnessed on the driving pop of "Caroline," where singer / guitarist David Debiak delivers a touching love letter to his girl back home, "I will hide this way / while bombs drop everyday / just close my eyes and wait to die / They can take our lives / but my soul is yours and mine / and I love you Caroline."
Many of the songs featured here are prime examples of pure pop rock, often pointing towards the reflectiveness of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, as well as some of the tuneful balladry of Harry Nilsson. While this may not exactly evoke the imagery of a war-torn 1940s, the rich narrative, not to mention the method the band used to record much of the album, does. "We actually recorded a good portion of the album on vintage 1940s set ups, ribbon and mushroom microphones and a few old amps," Debiak explained." The end result sounds better than most of what we have access to today."
With this attention to detail along with a foxhole full of memorable and melodic songs that defy the constraints of time, Sleep Station are finally giving new meaning to the concept album.
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