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!

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