The plainly called “First E.P.” from Wisconsin three-piece, After the Rain, throws a smoke signal up in the air, calling all 90s headbangers in for meet up. The five song effort comes complete with all of those alt-rock fixin’s you might expect: driving drums, chunky and distorted riffs a la Soundgarden, pentatonic solos, and dejected, us-versus-the world lyrics. “First E.P.” sounds as is advertised, but for a young group, the effort is not all bad.
The record is unpolished, honest, and straightforward about its influences. The group advertises their inspiration in plain view on their SoundCloud page, sporting hashtag after hashtag of bands that have had a hand in crafting the sound of After the Rain (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Stone Temple Pilots all make an appearance).
It is clear that the group has room to grow and mature. Much of the writing and playing is sloppy, and imprecise. The record may have been compiled and tracked to test the waters of their own songwriting, if not, then the studio environment. Its pitfalls owe as much to the group as it does to their engineer, whose obvious lack of experience abetted the shoddy sounding final product. The drum intro on track five, “So Wrong, So Right” is a salient example (it just plain isn’t in time). Original, yes. But good, no. It really isn’t so hard to realign hits with any modern recording software. The wah-heavy guitar solo in this song is a little more stock, but makes for an equally difficult listen. Certainly a trope of the genre, but also very certainly dated. For the most part, however, the guitar playing shows signs of talent.
One highlight of the record is the vocal styling. This brand of quick-paced rock begs for vocals that stand up to a over decade of strong singers. There is certainly promise here. It is as though years of listening to 90s grunge and alt-rock has hardwired precision of pitch and character. Again, the recording itself detracts from what the song might have been. Imprecisely doubled choruses muddy what could have severally been passable vocal takes. Forced to marry, the takes make for an amateur sounding final product. However, if we consider “First E.P.” to be the record’s title and its disclaimer, we are in a position to overlook and forgive. On a less critical listen, the ideas are there, and when executed properly, will come through and make for a more successful endeavour.
Commendable is the band’s commitment to the kind of sound they wished to craft. All of the record’s five tracks stem frankly and earnestly from the tradition within which it was conceived. First records are often composed of several disparate tracks which suggest the composers are still trying to pin-point their sound. After the Rain very obviously knows what kind of sound they are reaching for. Persistence in writing and performing will take them to that point along with some time spent retooling and rethinking.