Review: AFI – Crash Love

I wouldn’t be lying by saying that this was my most anticipated release this year. I’ve been excited about a lot of records coming out in 2009, but well… none of those were AFI. Which is why I was completely furious when I didn’t receive my pre-ordered CD for at least five days after the release date. Truth be told, I should have gone out and bought it from Rapture, but I wanted that extra bonus disc. It’s not even like I was waiting for the limited edition with lithograph plates which can be bought by you lucky Americans, but still, it’s AFI. I’ve got to have as much as I can get. And I’ve got to be honest, I can’t get enough of Crash Love.

Firstly, I’ve got to give praise to the band themselves. AFI have never sounded this in sync, and it just goes to show that this is the definitive line up. Everything fits so well – Jade and Hunter reach a great balance with Davey’s dramatic-as-usual vocals, and Adam keeps it all going with some awesome beats. With this in mind, I stress that the live show will be pretty spectacular, and you should definitely go and see them if Crash Love piques your interest at all.

Unlike the last three AFI albums, Crash Love has no introduction as such, and while that ‘once upon a time’ feel is lost from this album, Torch Song is just as entrancing and hypnotising as any of those introductory tracks. It’s still telling a story, but it’s more like the opening of a Shakespearean tragedy – we’re in mid conversation and we’re getting straight into the action. Torch Song is most definitely one of the most striking tracks on the album and an excellent one to start with, with its melancholic gang vocals in the chorus, crashing melodies and a typical return to Davey’s metaphorical wonderland. Nice start. There’s the ending though, in It Was Mine, slightly reminiscent of last album’s Endlessly, She Said, due to the epic chorus. Unlike Endlessly, it’s not a heart-wrenching epic all the way through, but the angelic choir in the climax of the song sounds wonderful, fitting Davey’s lyrics just perfectly.

And like the last two AFI albums, virtually every song on Crash Love sounds different. It’s a bit more streamlined than Decemberunderground, but there’s still a lot of variation. A couple of cues are taken from Jade and Davey’s side project Blaqk Audio, and you can hear that most clearly in Beautiful Thieves, with that awesome delayed guitar. My favourite song on the album is End Transmission, a deliciously 80s feeling track about a surreal road trip. I can’t wait to see the theories on the AFI boards about this stuff, really, even if the lyrics can really be determined to be about a particularly messy relationship. Too Shy To Scream struts along with a ballsy drum beat and a self assured cockiness that yes, AFI are just as good as they’ve always been. First single Medicate is catchy as hell, getting me singing along from the second listen and really shows off Jade’s skills with one hell of a solo at the end. AFI have always had a knack for the grandiose, and this is clearly seen on Darling, I Want To Destroy You, a song that could be as easily placed on Sing The Sorrow due to its rising vocals and dark, crushing guitar. The bonus disc is also really interesting, highlighting a few b-sides from Crash Love, Sing The Sorrow and Decemberunderground. It also shows a different side to AFI. For example, Fainting Spells starts as an acoustic ballad, until they totally tear it up with a rocking chorus and some of those frenzied hardcore screams from way back when. However, although some great songs are on this disc, it’s probably not going to intrigue casual AFI fans.

Where variation is a good thing, it’s also this album’s biggest downfall. It still doesn’t feel like a complete record. At least Decemberunderground had a clear beginning and end, whereas Crash Love burns out towards the finish. That’s not to say that the rest of the album isn’t fantastic. In fact, there isn’t a bad song on the album, but they just don’t sound connected. The only real defining factor to bring all the songs together is that this is a rock album. It’s not punk, it’s not horrorpunk, it’s not goth. It’s all of those, swirled together with 80s pop – influences from The Cure and Joy Division are rife throughout, as they have been for the latter part of AFI’s career – and the band have finally started to figured out how to make it work. It’s true, they can’t go back to being the happy-go-lucky punk band they once were, and they don’t need to, because Crash Love is truly great.



4 and a half high fives!

Monodon Monoceros

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Iquanodon Anglicus

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Crossota Millsae

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Cartoon Couture? by fightclubsandwich

Originally posted by fightclubsandwich in October 2008

And now, an article for the girl who considers the Vans slip-on a more iconic shoe by far than anything by Christian Loubouwhatsit. Why spend all that money on Vogue or Cosmo or Glamour to learn about expensive, exagerated clothes being worn by models with ridiculous figures, that are difficult-to-the-point-of-impossibility to translate into real life? You can learn how to navigate your way around the convoluted, controversial world of fashion by remembering the cartoons you used to watch as a child!

Mona The Vampire

It’s pretty clear from the outset that Mona The Vampire is a child of the 1990s. Firstly, she embraces the grunge look, with dreadlocks, Courtney-Love-style exaggerated make-up (her eyelashes were about as long as her fingers, and those porcelain-doll-parody red spots on her cheeks must be some statement use of blusher) and baggy clothes that are often quite lumpy and misshapen, but in a cool way. On the other hand, other items of her attire, such as her loafers and knee socks are SO this summer, if you’re into the whole trend-spotting thing. Not to mention that Goth is supposed to be coming back in a big way this year (and if you’re anything like me, that is EXCITING NEWS).

However, Mona’s overall look is mostly reminiscent of the mix-and-match street styles torn straight from the Fruits books and magazines, and blogs such as hel-looks. com. The button up shirt is so Lolita-esque, especially accessorised with the over-sized neck bow and hair ribbons. Then there’s the clashy-clashy colour scheme- the cape alone is deep purple with lime green and mustard flowers, and worn with a red blouse! The reason that the likes of the Fruits books fascinate everyone is the sheer inventiveness that the subjects show, pulling off eclectic looks that make you wish YOU’D thought of that, and that mix is Mona’s look in a nutshell.

Babar The Elephant

Babar is an elephant who is adopted by an Old Lady (referred to perhaps excessively bluntly as the “Old Lady”, and no, not in the sense that she was Babar’s “Old Lady”, it’s absolutely not THAT kind of a cartoon) and is taken to France, where he is dressed by Parisian tailors in what we must assume to be an extremely well-made suit. These guys designed and made clothes for an ELEPHANT, if you’re going to take on a challenge like that, you don’t do it by halves.

Anyway, then some more things happen, and Babar goes back to Africa and becomes King of the Elephants, bringing back many elements of French culture, in what may or may not be an endorsement of Western imperialism and colonialism, but I am not one to let Wikipedia ruin my childhood memories. Besides, all that subtext has nothing to do with the clothes. Does the possibility of a morally dubious underbelly to a children’s story really detract from the genius shade of green of Babar’s suit? It’s bold enough to be a personal trademark, but not too ridiculous or silly to undermine him or his role as a leader. Not to mention that the cartoon series at least show him wearing the suit as a very young elephant, (ambiguously aged, but I’d peg him as a teenager) as well as when he grows up to become a parent himself? This shows a sensibility about his style and teaches the kids from a very young age that there’s nothing glam about never wearing the same thing more than once, and a well-made item that will last you a lifetime is an infinitely wiser choice.

Madison from Cardcaptors

Like many children’s television programmes, Cardcaptors revolves around a young girl who has magical powers, blah blah blah, save the world, blah blah blah, cute little animal companion, etcetera. The aforementioned world-saver, Sakura, has a best friend who insists on designing beautiful outfits for her to wear whilst doing the whole magical thing, and if the characters’ school uniforms weren’t cute enough to leave any regular schoolgirl green with envy – those cute little berets! The bell-shaped sleeves! The red detailing on the collars! – Madison’s glorious garments raise Cardcaptors to the status of Sex & The City for ten year olds. It’s probably best to put any questions regarding the sewing skills of a child who is still in primary school in the back of your mind. Just open your eyes and let them water at the fabulous wardrobe she is responsible for.

Madison’s design trademarks (although she doesn’t actually wear the best stuff, it seems unfair to credit Sakura as the stylish one since she doesn’t seem to wear anything other than her school uniform when not in Madison’s creations) include lots of matching and co-ordination, small details such as buttons and bows that tie the outfit together and playfully feminine headgear such as ribbons, berets and even bunny ears. Her outfits almost always include tiered skirts with lots of petticoats, and she often matches them with knee socks or high boots, and capes that offer an interesting set of lengths. She also pays a lot of attention to her sleeves, with lots of puffiness around the shoulders, detailed cuffs or supplies very long gloves instead of sleeves, for something a bit more modern.

X-Men

If the girly eccentricities of Cardcaptors are analogous to Sex & The City, then X-Men is more like Dynasty. I am not talking about the more recent movie tie-in series X-Men Evolution; this is the early nineties attempt at telling the X-Men story, and the 80s influence is all over the character design. To start with, there’s a lot of really big hair. In retrospect, I suppose it’s odd that my six year old self was never in any way perturbed by the fact that Jean Grey’s hair was bigger than I was. The best X-Men hair of all, however, has to be Storm’s. Although she has some stiff competition – Quicksilver also did the edgy ice blonde thing, (and is probably the role model of Jay Manuel from America’s Next Top Model) and Rogue’s two-tone ‘do is one of the most recognisable looks in the Marvel Universe – Storm’s utterly awesome mohawk phase makes her admirable not only from a fashion standpoint, but is indicative of her role as one of the fiercest of all female comics characters, like, ever. It may not be a particularly shocking haircut to the likes of you, dear reader – and if it is, just go to your nearest Green Day concert or easily available alternative, where they’ll be ten-a-penny – but for a children’s cartoon? A character aimed primarily at young girls? It’s a pretty big difference from all that Disney Princess Hair, for sure.

Anyway, these mutants also love their statement pieces, (as I believe they’re referred to in actual fashion magazines) from Jubilee’s bright yellow trench coat to Shadowcat’s exaggerated preppy lapels and Jean Grey’s thigh-high boots. This is in keeping with the central theme of the show of every character having their own unique abilities, of everyone having some aspect of themselves that’s special and unique. My favourite character at the time was Rogue, and her pairing of a scruffy khaki jacket with bright yellow and acid green spandex is a distinctive, punky, experimental look that few could pull off – and with the aforementioned two-tone hair, too!

Top Cat

When you see a bright yellow cat wearing a plum-coloured waistcoat and fedora, you know that this is a creature who is utterly fearless in his fashion taste. Kate Moss later stole the whole fedora-and-waistcoat combo idea, but with none of Top Cat’s pizzazz nor courage. Denim and black may be in tune with her rock ‘n’ roll image, but it’s less interesting, for sure. Top Cat not only succeeded with what could have been a tricky monochrome look, but also made it work as a successful day-to-night outfit. Admittedly, when you’re a cat who lives on the streets, you may not get invited to a lot of fancy affairs that may warrant a “night look” but hey, at least he doesn’t look as dated as Choo-Choo (that’d be the pink one in the white polo neck) who – now that it’s not the sixties any more – just looks like some sort of practitioner of some sort of strange, new-agey healing technique. And that’s just weird.