A little over a month before the release of Sleep Station’s After the War, the band’s website was hacked by a Muslim cyber protester. Upon seeing the site, adorned with old photos of World War II soldiers and such, the angry man, calling himself “Tim” left a message saying something to the effect of: “You, United States has always supported Israel spiritual and with money.”
Passionate as “Tim” may have been, it was a gross misunderstanding. Sleep Station’s After the War is far from a pro-war album, a la Toby Keith’s “angry American” pseudo-country drivel. Instead, the album is a nostalgic collection of tunes telling the stories of those involved in World War II.
The album flows like musical theater, with sound effects of the time (radio broadcasts, gunfire, drum marches) separating blocks of music. Yet, the music itself seems a bit anachronistic. The opening title track is a mellow rock ballad, somewhere between Chicago and The Pernice Brothers. That’s not as bad as it might sound — trust me. And even so, David Debiak’s vocal similarity to Peter Cetera comes and goes.
An obvious reference point to songs like “Caroline London, 1940” and “Silver in the Sun” would be Neutral Milk Hotel. The unmistakable distorted acoustic guitar sound reeks of Jeff Mangum, who, after all, made it cool to be an indie band with lyrics about World War II. Again, this comes and goes, as the band tends to drift stylistically.
When not calling upon Elephant 6 or ’70s AM Gold (a term with which a press release on their website proudly uses), Sleep Station plays honest-to-goodness power pop a la Big Star, with occasional country twang flourishes thrown in. “Burden to You” is an outstanding example of the band’s Chilton-esque pop balladry, and easily the best song on the album.
While the idea of a concept album about World War II seems a little cheesy, it’s hard to fault Sleep Station for their earnestness. Be it a little too precious at times, After the War is a fine pop album and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Pernice Brothers – The World Won’t End
Decemberists – Her Majesty the Decemberists
Big Star – #1 Record
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.