Think Iowa. Think straw-in-the-mouth, corn-fed tractor rock. Think The Afters. Okay, those things are not necessarily bad. Hootie & the Blowfish made a career out of it – in fact I think I have a couple of Hootie albums somewhere – as did John Cougar Mellencamp. The Afters and their debut album, I Wish We All Could Win, is generic rock but that doesn’t make it bad - just easy to listen to.
The foursome from Texas began their careers working at a Starbucks and singing for the customers when it was slow. They have come a long way and taken a very unusual route. The Afters are a respected Christian rock band and are now trying to cross over into mainstream music and take their message with them. I don’t think it’s going to work.
I Wish We All Could Win starts well enough with a rather enjoyable love song, “Beautiful Love”. With distorted guitar and almost heavy bass lines and Josh (frontman number one) Havens’ voice is a less emotive version of Thom Yorke (Radiohead). The track sounds like it could have been interesting. It shows that they are capable of so much more. These boys certainly have talent but seem unwilling to reach for something better.
“The Way You Are” has a harder feel with heavier guitar and excellent bass lines however the lyrics are weak. This time sung by frontman number two, Matt Fuqua, whose voice is stronger and less whiny than Havens. This song is a nice departure; however it’s not enough to lift this album from the blandness it is mired in.
For a band that is trying to “cross over” they really should cut out the Jesus lyrics. The tracks “All That I Am” and “You” are both love songs to Jesus and God. I think that’s fine and dandy when that’s the reason you buy an album but when thrown in with mainstream songs the album feels contrived. I found myself feeling very uncomfortable during those tracks and, by extension, I found that it took some of the joy out of the other love songs. I couldn’t help but feel the songs weren’t what they appeared to be – like listening to George Michael sing about women, you know he doesn’t mean it. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way but it is.