California is a state with a well-defined sound. Orange County punk, Los Angeles metal, Bay Area punk, West Coast rap, and Southern California rock bands, all of these styles are instantly recognizable. After the Last is the debut album of The Red Thread the new project of San Francisco-based Jason Lakis, former leader of the acclaimed Half Film, and it's very much a California record. Instead of glam or punk or metal or rap, we're talking about singer-songwriter fare here, with a hint of country, but not too much; at times, Lakis sounds like a gruffier version of labelmate Hayden, which isn't a bad thing in my book.
I understand that people in California do a lot of partying. They go out late at night, and wake up late the next day, usually with some sort of hangover. Now I don't know what kind of activities Lakis and crew partake in, but After the Last is undeniably a hangover record. The songs on After the Last are blurry in vision and hazy in mind, with more than a hint of regret and of ache in the head. Lakis sings in such a slight, sly manner that fits in nicely with the picture of him on the cover, lookin' all hungover.
The Red Thread's music is very similar in style to a mairiachi-less Calexico, and it really works well, because these songs have a dry-heat that can only come from the hot desert sun. The only problem with After the Last, however, is that at times it seems a bit flat, and the music sounds oddly muffled. Unfortunatly, this causes the rocking numbers like "All In" and "Subject to Change" to lose a little bit of their strength, which is a shame, because these songs probably smoke live! And speaking of hard-rockin' music, there's a virtually unrecognizable cover of Bad Brains' "Sailin' On," which sounds like a lost rockabilly/alt.country hit.
Ah, but I forgive 'em for those little problems. This is a debut record, mind you, so there's plenty of time to work on their sound. After the Last is evidence enough that, given time and a little bit of maturity, The Red Thread could make a really great, powerful album. After the Last is a good start, though, despite its flaws.