AFI

Crash Love

Written by: TL on 20/10/2009 22:03:43

I could be wrong, but the general feeling I get from writing and reading reviews here at Rockfreaks.net, is that most releases are within the first four a given band has released. Longevity it seems, is a rare trait in a music business that idealizes the new, the fresh, the revolutionary, and as such, only the best of bands have what it takes to stay relevant for more than a few years. AFI however, are an obvious exception to this trend. Spending the first eight years of their career fortifying themselves as a force of punk rock to be reckoned with, only to change direction starting on the legendary "Black Sails In The Sunset", and since then having tried their hand at various genres, goth, industrial, epic rock, retaining only a small but distinct hint of their roots at the core of their sound.

Now as is often the case with bands who have as many releases as AFI (eight LP's, eleven EP's), for each album there is a separate group of fans, claiming at every given opportunity that the album that got them into the band is the better one of the lot. Personally though, I got in as late as on 2003's "Sing The Sorrow", and I would be lying of I said I'd listened enough to the rest of the albums to be able to pass judgment, and in all honesty, I think the discussion is utterly pointless, because given how AFI have tried to make entirely different albums on the last five releases, there isn't really any sense in comparing them to one another. Rather I think they should be measured against their own ambitions and against the quality of their contemporaries, and with that in mind, I set out to describe to you the band's newest opus: "Crash Love".

With "Torch Song" and "Beautiful Thieves" things are kicked off, and right off the bat, things will seem both solid and also rather familiar. Both starters are mid-paced anthemic AFI with subtle, poetic verses and massive choruses, including backing choirs and epic riffage from Puget. They give you the feeling that things are good, but not really great, and that this is basically the same kind of stuff we heard on "Decemberunderground" and "Sing The Sorrow", only not as striking the second time around.

That feeling is one that will stick for the first couple of listens I admit, but on the fourth or fifth spin, I promise you, things will start to occur to you. When they do, the following trio of tracks will open up and show that "Crash Love" too, is a different incarnation of AFI - All three songs feature an up-tempo beat that is a direct testament to the band's punk rock past, but each have different strengths to show. The first is hands down the hit of the record, and the first choice for a single had I been in charge, because not only does it sport an infectious riffage that every mainstream band from The Killers to Kings Of Leon would probably kill for, but also words that stick to the mind like super glue and an emotionally engaging chorus. "Too Shy To Scream" shines too, mostly due to its wicked intro, where a dirty bass line accompanies bouncy kick drum usage and hand clapping, kicking of the song in a way that's reminiscent of Van Halen's "Hot For The Teacher", and as long as that bass rumbles in that song, all is well and rockin'. As for the the last of the three, "Veronica Sawyer Smokes", The Cure probably called AFI and asked to have their guitar style back, but they're not getting it till the song is over, and a good thing that is, because the way Havok and his band pays tribute to them is enjoyable indeed.

Naturally, the first song on which the band slows things back down, "Okay, I Feel Better Now", is a bit harder to get wrapped up in, as it seems to put you back in the same "Sing The Sorrow"/"Decemberunderground" feeling that the first two songs did, yet given time it's verse will leave deeper imprints in your mind - And even if you don't befriend it, rest assured that first single "Medicate" picks the pace back up, packing more attitude than any previous track, and hammering home the fact that guitarist Jade Puget is owning this record, proving in song upon song that he can craft a catchy punk riff with which the words "cool" and "slick" seem inherently entwined, like some bizarre Siamese triplet.

As for the remaining songs, "I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here" is probably a weaker cut, as another catchy chorus isn't enough to put it on par with the rest, nor is a slight dash of electronics, reminiscent of, again, the two most recent records. "Sacrilege" on the other hand has got more riffage to die for, and comes galloping through the gates at the highest speed of the record, seemingly on a crusade with a punk rock bible in hand. "Darling, I Want To Destroy You", is obviously the "Silver And Cold" of the record, and while the verse is a bit shaky, the chorus will likely be sung loud as hell in coming AFI shows. After it, things are sounded off strongly with "Cold Hands", featuring even more solid riffage and, you guessed it, another easily sing-alongable chorus.

Before I round things off though, let me emphasize that I do understand if you have reservations about "Crash Love". I know I had for the first handful of listens, and in all honesty, I didn't really expect much of AFI, because I never truly warmed up to "Decemberunderground". I had actually come to a point where I was starting to think that a band with a singer like Davey Havok, who has rather limited power and range, even though he controls his pipes impressively, would never really be able to impress me again. Yet the material on "Crash Love" speaks for itself if you can listen to it on its own terms, and accept that these days AFI are more interested in referencing The Cure and Morrissey than any punk band. In fact, as one reviewer very cleverly pointed out in last month's Rock Sound (while cleverly forgetting to describe what the album sounds like), what bans this particular record from the realms of true greatness, is not the new areas it seeks to conquer, yet it is its insistence on remaining tied to the ones from which it came. Put in plain; it is actually the remaining traces of AFI's punk rock background that prevents them from truly sweeping listeners off their feet with their new found maturity and neo-classical expression. Still though, these are merely details, and "Crash Love" is an album of superb quality and memorable songs, one that I will struggle to push out of my rotation for days to come.

8

Download: End Transmission, Too Shy To Scream, Medicate
For The Fans Of: The Cure, Alkaline Trio, The Smiths, Aiden (but +9000 times better)
Listen: myspace.com/afi

Release Date 29.09.2009
DGC Records / Interscope

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