Sleep Station – After the War

Sleep Station
After the War

And now it comes: The Foo Fighters influence on the indie-rock music scene. Somehow, I knew this was coming, but I was powerless to stop it, and as such, I chose to ignore it. But really, this has been a long time coming: “Everlong” was a great enough song for anyone to admire, but the uninspired, “Ed” theme song pap that followed was syrupy and just, dare I say, “emotional” enough to make a guilty-conscience splash in the indie scene.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling either the Foo Fighters or Sleep Station “emo,” or any other such ridiculous thing. It’s just that the Foo Fighters helped make this faux-sentimental, mid-tempo, caffeine-free rock acceptable in the supposedly cutting-edge underground music scene. No matter how you slice it, Sleep Station sounds a whole lot like Dave Grohl and company, distilling the worst parts of his music – think acoustic renditions, awful lyrics, and shapeless ballads – and turning it into the regrettable After the War.

Careful, though. Sleep Station is participating in no sort of political content with this album title – that stuff is, like, complicated. Rather, the band prefers to focus on the “romantic” part of the war – when the soldier comes home and there is love lost and love found and – presumably – much soul-searching. And while I’m not one to overreact to what is surely an innocent lapse in judgment, the wartime theme does seem in somewhat poor taste given the harsh wartime agenda we all face.

That being said, the vaguely connected themes of war and returning home to motivate the album in a way that at least lends credence to its existence: otherwise, we might have to question it entirely. Sleep Station does seem to be able to put a decent hook together. Particularly on “Burden to You,” the band whips up a melodic froth that hints at actual aptitude. The problem is that even when the band stumbles upon a good hook – which isn’t all that rare – these musicians dress it in acoustic sheen and twinkling piano, drowning out any potential urgency and emotion in their music. All of this sounds like a vaguely recalled modern soft-rock hit from the late 1990s: good enough for many people to enjoy, but bland enough for everyone to forget.

Even with the motivation the album theme provides, then, the band lacks the imagination to really bring these songs to life. “A Soldiers Dream” (sic), for instance, carries a fine hook, competent vocals, and solid musicianship. Dressed up in a different gown, it’s a passable pop-rock nugget. As is, however, it sounds overly sentimental, forced, and almost completely plastic.

It hurts me to slam an album this thoroughly, but the shreds of interesting music on After the War are scattered so thoroughly that by the time one pops up, I’ve forgotten the last. Sleep Station isn’t guilty of bad writing or even poor musicianship – the two things that sink most bands right off the bat. Rather, the skull-shattering lack of inventiveness and experimentation vaults the band out of the realm of worth my time. Or yours.