The Long Afternoon – The Luxury Problem (2006)

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Review by Rob Smith (EightE1)
Everybody loves a power trio. You might be a Rush person. You might be a Cream person, or a Hüsker Dü person. Maybe ELP is your thing, or maybe Pleased to Meet Me-era Replacements, the Jam, Nirvana, ZZ Top, Triumph, Dinosaur Jr., the Police, King’s X, Green Day, Motorhead, or the Minutemen. You might even really dig Three Dog Night, who weren’t particularly powerful, but such is the musical effect of the number three. The Bee Gees were a trio, as were their backing band (Blue Weaver, Alan Kendall, and Dennis Bryon), making them perhaps the most popular double trio in history. Three truly is the magic number.

Apparently, for the past 20 years or so, a guy named Eston Martz has been leading a band called the Long Afternoon in the shadow of Mount Nittany and Joe Paterno, in State College, PA. Currently constituted of Martz on guitar and voice, Greg Elliott on drums, and bassist Jeff Edmonds, the Long Afternoon has released its first long-player, The Luxury Problem. That’s right. Twenty years. One album. It’s a release schedule that would make Tom Scholz proud (you’ll recall Scholz, the mercurial madman behind Boston, released the band’s third album, Third Stage — more threes; they’re everywhere — only after tinkering with it for close to a decade).

The Luxury Problem is a cool addition to the pantheon of triology (just made that word up, about three minutes ago). More akin to Candy Apple Grey than to Eliminator or Synchronicity, the album undulates and screams with all manner of guitar whackery, courtesy of Martz and his way with six strings and studio layering. His best, most alluring weapon is the wall of fuzz, which he employs to superior effect on tracks like “That’s Not What You Said,” “Threw Me into Shock,” and “The Revolver” (download). The latter features a smokin’ Neil Youngish three-note solo that might’ve melted the left speaker on my boom box.

Lyrically, the record is a mixed bag — lots of pissed off/bad relationship sentiments, but occasionally a particularly jagged verse pokes out and draws blood. The best of these might be “Tune Out, Turn Off, Drop Dead” (download) (hands-down, the best title on the record), which follows a white-hot intro with lines about exploding suns, wiping the dreams out of one’s eyes, and noting “the lonely aftermath of every war we fought.” Even if the words don’t particularly grab you, though, you’re only a few seconds from being distracted by another slab of guitar upside the head.

The copyright info on the album’s inner sleeve reads 1984-2006, owing to Martz’s longevity as a songwriter and performer and relative rookiedom as a recording artist. One hopes he and the rest of The Long Afternoon don’t wait so long to follow up The Luxury Problem. Even if they do, it likely won’t matter — I’m betting their third record will really rock. —RS

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