AFI (A Fire Inside) are back, three years after the release of their last album, with ’Crash Love’.
The band have legions of dedicated fans, but equally many hardened critics who yearn for the return of the goth-punk band that released ’Days Of The Phoenix’. Those days are long gone, and certainly don’t return here, though the band can still right a damn fine punk tune, single ’Medicate’ being a prime example. The band has always been a band to be followed, the plethora of faux-goth emo/punk bands should be indicative of this, and so it was always likely that their musical output would evolve, stretching the boundaries of the goth-punk genre they inhabit. On their latest effort everything seems that little bit lighter, a fact even reflected in the album cover, a stark contrast to their previous bleak artwork. Everything that is, except the lyrics, which remain as dark as ever (I said I’d seen a body/You said you’d seen a few) and as a result will probably see AFI labelled as ’goth’ for a little while longer. Truth be told, this is more of a pop-rock album, although it’s unlikely to be adopted by the mainstream, in parts it could easily slip onto a radio playlist.
’Crash Love’ lacks the dark atmosphere of ’Decemberunderground’ and ’Sing The Sorrow’ but there are similarities, there are still plenty of epic anthems. The opening two tracks ’Torch Song’ and ’Beautiful Thieves’ have delightful, rousing, choruses in which Davey Havok unleashes his unique vocal style, a camp, deep voice at odds with the screams of the bands early work (in fact the whole record passes by without so much as a shriek). ’Okay I Feel Better Now’ is another that wouldn’t be out of place on either of the previous albums, with its haunting backing vocals and swirling, lush chorus.
’End Transmission’ and ’Veronica Sawyer Smokes’ are indicative of the album as a whole, surprisingly pleasant, you can almost sense Davey Havok breaking into a smile as he sings, but they pale into comparison with the songs that precede them. Whilst it would be foolish of me to expect AFI, or any band for that matter, to maintain a consistent quality standard across a record, it becomes infuriating hearing such inconsistencies on a regular basis.
There are high points; ’Too Shy To Scream’ is driven by a quirky drum beat reminiscent of ’Beautiful People’ by Marilyn Manson, before exploding into another glorious chorus. ’Medicate’ is an absolute belter, perhaps the track most similar in style to their roots on the album, mixing that raw aggression with a poppier sound they have shown glimpses of with ’Miss Murder’ and ’Girl’s Not Grey’. For me, it’s up there as one of the tracks of the year. ’Sacrilege’ and ’Cold Hands’ ensure that the second half of the album doesn’t fall flat.
When AFI get it right, the results are breath-taking, however, whilst there are no terribly bad songs here, there’s too much filler for a band as accomplished as they are. This is a decent album, but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of their previous two efforts, though it still puts the efforts of their imitators (Aiden et al) to shame and will ensure AFI remain at the forefront of their particular genre.