The Hereafter rock softly

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The Hereafter rock softly
Posted Sept. 27, 2006

Beginning with light guitar sounds and a field recording inviting people to listen to post-album orchestra bells, Los Angeles-based duo the Hereafter’s self-titled sophomore release embarks on a mellow, youthful ride through adolescent blues, following a seemingly centralized theme.

Singer-songwriter John Elliot possesses a prolific writing hand, evidenced in song material that ranges from death, space oddities and lust to childhood nostalgia and politics. And though the majority of song lyrics do not stand out as revolutionary, the nonsensical organization of his folkloric tales is surprisingly appealing.

At times, Elliot focuses on melody above all else, choosing unconnected sequences of lyrics for rhyming purposes rather than extended figurative meaning.  Yet, he proves to be multi-talented; wailing away at his harmonica, strumming guitar and pounding piano while shouting out chaotic bursts of words magically pieced together through several memorable choruses.

In fact, Elliot’s overwhelmingly melodic voice proves he could mutter any jumble of words without straying from the time constraints of his songs, somehow making lyrics such as “the Greeks, the Romans, the Whigs, the Mormons” appear more reasonable than absurd.

Tracks such as “Give Me What I Want,” which presents a catchy melody and a humorous look at disappointment, maintain a simplistically literal rather than poetic allure.  “Heads of the State,” easily the most promising song, is reminiscent of Campbell & the Nails’ “88 Lines About 44 Women,” containing a comprehensive flow of words that provoke images of Bob Dylan rapping about the necessity of chewing gum to avoid becoming a bum.

Just as Elliot’s voice could stand alone, drummer Andy Featherston’s percussion abilities are imaginative and advanced, lending skill to youthful excitement and hunger. He elevates the duo’s traditional sound into a sub-category of experimental pop, adding a notch of professionalism to the mix.  Pronounced beats lean heavily on influences ranging from Semisonic to the Barenaked Ladies, contributing to an overall well-produced product.

The pair approached the album with youthful abandon, using the words “never will we be that young again” as a reoccurring motif. And despite lyrics that border on amateur, the album features 14 radio friendly hits, including the “Grey’s Anatomy” track “Back Where I Was,” that blend into a cohesive whole and throw listeners for a loop, creating an upbeat vibe that speaks to the awkward high school kid in everyone. 

Whether on or off stage, Elliot and Featherston make up in sound what they lack in instrumental numbers, but the true talent of the band rests next to the latter’s expansive drumstick collection. Though the album provides a satisfying collection of independently recorded songs, it may only be worth a few hurried listens en route to a live performance.

Kady Bell can be reached at