How do you make a good album with a lasting appeal? Simply take the delicious source from the glorious melodies of US West Coast pop masters The Beach Boys, mix it with the intelligence of David Bowie‘s masterful seventies compositions, then add the charm of The Kinks and finally add a twist of contemporary spice with the emotional enthusiasms of Belle And Sebastian and there you have it. Oh, and then give it a name. The Afternoons have christened their particular opus Rocket Summer.
Having thus far released a handful of singles and two albums to justifiable rounds of applause, the Cardiff-based band seem to be having lots of sunny afternoons these days. Rocket Summer is their first release since 2003’s My Lost City and is firm triumph of utterly convincing melodies and wistful vocals.
Coast Road is like a Turkish delight; it has a silky texture with a sweet, soft centre. Richard Griffith’s vocals are smooth and free of inhibitions while the strokes of harmonica are perfectly placed in a song that has a natural tempo. The opening riff of Rocket Summer is a bit too rough but it bounces into action with poppy rhythm and flowery chorus.
Let’s Fall Apart has a heavy bass that augments the melody before the whole band jumps up and kicks off with harder (but not too hard) sound yet it’s still within reach. Looking For A Reason feels like a filler song as it tries a little to hard to get noticed in its short two minute running length.
Fading Fast is an impossibly tender song with a melody as delicate as a nurses hands and an honest affection. You’ll Never Know speeds things up with a cocky suave and an individual attitude. Canada Geese flows freely through the cold air with some slender acoustic strumming and dulcet vocals.
For the five friends (vocalist/guitarist Richard Griffith, drummer Peter Morgan, bass/vocals Sarah Ellison, keyboardist Paul Rapi and guitarist Jason Huxley) there is a genuine taste to explore their self-styled musical box of goodies. They have handpicked a host of great pop icons and added their own flavour to make such a distinctive brew. There is a British sensibility present that works arm in arm with a curious West Coast commercial feeling. And for a band based in Cardiff, life seems happier than one would imagine.
Although there is the odd moment of over sentimentality and fluffiness in the 12-track line-up of Rocket Summer, much of the album has a firm dose of common sense and a real sense of identity.
The Afternoons are like an undiscovered diamond waiting to be found and their latest offspring is curious gem of an album that sparkles with appeal.