For most artists, re-recording material from their back catalog is a sure sign they've either run out of ideas or they're trying to generate new paychecks from old work. But even the most churlish observer would give R. Stevie Moore a pass on such things, since only a tiny cult has ever heard the majority of the voluminous body of home-brewed recordings he's been issuing at a steady stream since 1975. 2019's Afterlife finds Moore cutting new versions of 14 of his favorite compositions, though the liner notes stress that these performances were "(r)ecorded in the 21st century in real recording studios." Moore was an early adopter of recording music at home using a makeshift studio, yet he's had enough experience in professional recording environments that they don't stifle his musical thinking. As a consequence, the tunes on Afterlife have much of the same playful, anything-goes pure-pop charm of Moore's endless supply of lo-fi home recordings, but with improved fidelity and production that makes the most of his gift for crafting delicious if slightly eccentric pop melodies. While six of these tracks were recorded with Moore handling all instruments and vocals, most feature him working with other musicians for a change, and if this gives the music a slightly different character, it doesn't dilute the essential spirit of his music, and lends the recordings a slightly more organic feel. And since very few people will be familiar with all (or even any) of this material, Afterlife actually serves as a dandy introduction to R. Stevie Moore's work, boasting a fistful of great tunes, plenty of cool guitar work, an abundance of humor and philosophy, and a singular take on rock and pop that's surprisingly accessible given Moore's eagerness to experiment and bend the rules. For longtime fans, Afterlife shows that R. Stevie Moore can clean up and play nice and still hold tight to the qualities that have made him a cult hero, and for beginners, this is a slightly refined but still accurate introduction to an artist who is some sort of national treasure. In short, who doesn't need this album in their collection?
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming