AFI – A Retrospective

Originally posted by Ripper on 18/09/2009

The truth is, AFI have been my favourite band since I was 10 years old. Ridiculous? Probably. It was when we first got Sky Digital. I turned onto the music channels and hit MTV2, purely by accident. It was there that I witnessed Davey in all his androgynous glory singing ‘Boy Who Destroyed The World’ and I fell in love. Despite discovering new and exciting music all the time, nothing ever struck me as deeply as AFI did. If it weren’t for AFI, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.

That’s not to say that I’m one of those kids who’s all ‘OH MY GOD AFI ARE MY LIIIIFEEEE, WITHOUT AFI I WOULD BE DEAD RIGHT NOW’. Quite the contrary; I know barely anything about the band members themselves (I am a casual follower of Hunter on Twitter because he makes many tweets about coffee), I wasn’t thrilled by the latter two albums, I’m still not a DF member and I don’t even know all the words to the songs. I probably suck as a fan. But let’s ignore that fact for now. I appreciate that AFI make damn good music and that’s why I love them.

AFI have a new album coming out next week. It’s called Crash Love. From what songs and previews I’ve heard, it’s a little beefier than Decemberunderground, and that suits me just fine. Ridiculous title aside, I can predict that it’ll probably be my favourite album this year. Maybe. However, in respect to the fact that this will be AFI’s eighth studio album, I’m writing a brief history of the band and what’s so awesome about them. I know that most people who read this zine will be relatively familiar with AFI. But my mum isn’t, so here goes!

Days of the Devilock

(NB: in reference to titles, I’ll go with Davey’s hairstyle at that point, because it changed so damn much).

AFI started out in 1991 as a punk band from Ukiah, California. Nothing much happened for four years, until their first album, Answer That And Stay Fashionable came out in 1995 on Nitro Records, Dexter Holland’s (of Offspring fame) label, with the lineup of Davey (vocals), Geoff (bass), Mark (guitar) and Adam (drums). ATASF is a wonderful punk offering with some of AFI’s most classic tracks on it. My personal favourite, ‘Cereal Wars’, tells of Davey’s quest to go and find cereal and the difficulties of finding the right brand. Seriously. But it’s songs like this that remind me of AFI being fun, unlike their more serious image now. I mean, come on, on the cover, they all dressed like gangsters! Classy gents. The bass in this album is also mental. It’s not as awesome as Hunter’s, but I imagine that Geoff totally shredded his fingers at how fast some of the songs are. Kudos to Davey as well, for singing without taking a breath because he’s going so fast. I’ll let you fill in with your own innuendo here. Seriously though, it’s one of AFI’s catchiest albums, even if almost all the songs stay the same. I don’t think I know an AFI fan that doesn’t know the words to ‘High School Football Hero’ or ‘I Want A Mohawk (But Mom Won’t Let Me Get One)’. If you enjoy hyped up punk with a bit of a comical edge that are heavier than Blink 182 or the Descendents, then this AFI album is perfect for you. It’s well worth the £15 (!) I paid for it from HMV before I discovered internet shopping.

Recommended tracks: Cereal Wars, The Checkered Demon, Rizzo In The Box, High School Football Hero

A year later, when AFI still released albums at a sensible time, Very Proud Of Ya came out, and well, I won’t lie, it sounded exactly the same as ATASF but with much better production and slightly more distinguishable vocals. And that was totally fine by me. Lyrically, the album is somewhat more serious… until ‘Cruise Control’ comes along with the beauty “I don’t wanna fuck you, don’t wanna fuck you, I don’t wanna fuck you… SO FUCK YOU!” All pisstaking aside though, AFI start to touch on isolation, fear, straight edge and love, instead of cereal, school and mohawks, and it works. VPOY is the teen angst album for people who don’t want to admit they have teen angst. VPOY also marks the beginning of AFI’s move towards hardcore (yes, hardcore), with songs like ‘Aspirin Free’ holding a much heavier and angrier sound. Breakdowns weren’t to come for a while, but the structure was in place. And it was good.

Recommended tracks: Crop Tub, This Secret Ninja, Charles Atlas, Cruise Control

Slicked Back In Black

The first lineup changed happened in 1997, and Geoff left, making way for Hunter Burgan, AFI’s current bassist to shake things up a bit. It’s no coincidence that AFI’s sound shifts a lot for next album, Shut Your Mouth And Open Your Eyes. Things sound a bit more minor, Davey’s lyrics start to become confusing and metaphoric, and dammit, there’s gang vocals! SYMAOYE is potentially my second favourite AFI album, for the fact that it takes a far more hardcore feel, and because it begins to form the basis for my favourite period of AFI’s history, which is the beginning of the definitive line up. The addition of Hunter was one of the best decisions AFI could have made, because he brought such a great change to the lineup. Although AFI worked well as a less serious band, it was here that it was obvious that the band were meant for greater things. Anthems For Insubordinates became A Fire Inside, the guitar even became slightly more sophisticated and hard hitting, and backing vocals work properly for the first time. This album also has my second favourite AFI song on it, ‘Let It Be Broke’, which is potentially the greatest break-up-fuck-you I’ve ever heard.

Recommended tracks: Let It Be Broke, A Single Second, The New Patron Saints And Angels, Third Season

In 1999, Black Sails In The Sunset (have you noticed AFI have a propensity for long titles yet?) was released, and well… it was completely different to anything they’d ever done before. Why? Because Jade Puget replaced Mark on guitar, Davey went back to singing unintelligibly again and no lyrics made sense for they were all metaphors now. That’s probably not selling AFI to you, but it really should, because this album was awesome. Jade has to be one of the best guitarists in my eyes because everything just fits so perfectly, and he picks this wonderfully dark tone in every song that completely defines AFI’s later material, from the music to the album artwork. Whilst AFI lingered in this ‘horrorpunk’ period, they created a beautiful atmospheric sound which still resonates with me today. Also, some of the best riffs on an AFI album can be found here – the opening to ‘The Prayer Position’ stills sends shivers down my spine.

Recommended tracks: Malleus Maleficarum, The Prayer Position, God Called In Sick Today, Exsanguination.

This carried on through to the EP’s they released – A Fire Inside and All Hallows. A Fire Inside consisted of mostly covers, including a cover of The Cure’s ‘The Hanging Garden’, indicative of their new sound. The Cure influence can be heard throughout several songs on fifth album, The Art Of Drowning, as Davey takes a definite cue from Smith’s haunting vocals, particularly on ‘Morningstar’ and ‘6 to 8’. The Art Of Drowning is my favourite AFI album, and indeed, my favourite album of all time. It’s impossible to say that it was this album in which AFI truly found their sound, because their sound has varied so much from their humble beginnings to their status as rock stars worldwide, but it was where, I feel, they found perfection. From the energy of true opening track ‘The Lost Souls’, to the magnificently poppy single ‘Days Of The Phoenix’ to slow burning ‘Morningstar’, AFI cover a range of emotions and sounds and they do it all perfectly. There is no bad song on this album, which is going to make it ridiculously difficult to pick my favourites in a moment. It’s a culmination of everything AFI were and could be, mixing hardcore, horror and pop punk all in one. And it’s incredible. Lyrically, this is also AFI’s most impressive album. It’s almost impossible for me to pick any one example, but my favourite comes from the chorus for Wester:

Tonight in the whispers when no one’s around/Nothing can stop us now/Tonight in the whispers where we won’t be found/Nothing can stop us now.

It’s ridiculously simple, but to me, invokes images of a secret wonderland in the shadows, which totally sums up the fantasy feel behind all of AFI’s lyrics from Black Sails onwards. And this album also featured Beetlejuice quotes, so major points for that.

Recommended tracks: Boy Who Destroyed The World, Wester, The Nephilim, The Despair Factor

The Art Of Drowning marked an end to AFI’s career on Nitro Records, and as a result, they released a retrospective of singles and previously vinyl only tracks. Despite owning almost every single song on it, I bought it, and was treated to a few gems such as ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Rolling Balls’, a delightful little ditty about wanting to become a woman. I would actually recommend this to anyone who didn’t know where to start with AFI, as it’s got a great range of their songs on there from ATASF to The Art Of Drowning so you can really get a feel of what AFI have done and where to go from there.

Danzig Tribute 2.0

AFI moved to Interscope Records after a very successful time on the underground circuit, and released Sing The Sorrow in 2003. STS… well, it’s a total change. As in, it doesn’t sound very much like anything AFI have done ever before. I love it still, but it’s my least favourite AFI album. Any element of punk has slowly dissipated, but the melancholic and dark sounds from the last two albums remain, creating an interesting, if not complete, sound. The really interesting thing about STS is not the music, but the
Clandestine Theories, a concept behind the album which was hinted at within the short film Clandestine, which was brought out on a special edition collector’s album. Which is impossible to find for under £200 on eBay. If you start on ‘Bleed Black’ and pay careful attention to the lyrics (and later the speech in the hidden track), the narrative takes you through birth, life, death and resurrection in a spectacularly eerie fashion. It’s pretty awesome. Either way, the album isn’t a bad one, and much better than most other things that also came out in 2003.

Recommended tracks: Dancing Through Sunday, This Time Imperfect, Synesthesia, This Celluloid Dream

Depeche Mode Called, They Lost Their Keyboardist

Three long years later, AFI came out with Decemberunderground, a far better effort than STS was. It was a lot poppier and a bit more sporadic in its sound, but it showed AFI experimenting with different styles as opposed to staying stagnant, which I really appreciated. They played around with new wave in ‘The Missing Frame’, went back to their hardcore roots in ‘Kill Caustic’ and kind of managed to sound slightly like Green Day to half the world in ‘Miss Murder’. DU just sounds great through loud speakers, and you can understand what Davey’s actually singing again! DU saw AFI just go ‘fuck it’ and throw themselves into a variety of different influences, which resulted in an excellent album. Forthcoming Crash Love also seems to take the same cues as DU did, and should be an excellent album.


So, it’s an exciting new era for AFI. Fourteen years and numerous reinventions later, and the band really seem to have found themselves. Davey, however, can’t find a haircut he truly likes, so I leave you with this – a video of all of his hairstyles to date. Enjoy!

Six Degrees Of Separation Mixtape by fightclubsandwich

Originally by fightclubsandwich, posted on 8/9/2009

The game “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon”, since its conception in 1994, has risen to the level of ubiquity enjoyed by the likes of such games as “I Spy” or “Consequences”. This rise to prominence is a testament to the human race’s love of trivia, especially as a means to achieve victory at a competition that is as trivial as the knowledge required to play it. The sheer simplicity of the game’s basic format can also be applied to the mixtape, a glorious invention that also owes its success to the human love of trivia and tiny, insignificant little details. If you’d like to learn more about mixtapes, they feature heavily in the film High Fidelity, which stars Jack Black, who was in Tropic Thunder, which also starred Tom Cruise, who was also in A Few Good Men, with Kevin Bacon.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society – Thumb Cinema

Is there any better way to begin a mixtape than with a delicious slice of World/Inferno? I can’t think of one. Thumb Cinema is one of the band’s most insistently catchy numbers, as well as one that falls more or less on the punk side of their fun and unique cabaret-punk sound. Thumb Cinema can be found on the album Addicted To Bad Ideas, and due to the band’s constantly changing line-up, their drummer for the touring following this album was Brian Viglione, best known for his work with…

Dresden Dolls – Backstabber

Brian Viglione is such an excellent touchstone between bands of wildly different genres that if another Six Degrees article such as this one should appear on this website, you should probably expect Mr Viglione’s presence there. For example, this particular song we’ve chosen, Backstabber, was a released as a single with a video featuring members of Panic! At The Disco. So actually, via The World/Inferno Friendship Society’s revolving door drummer replacement method, we could link them back to Leftover Crack (hello there, Ara Babajian) thus blowing your mind with the observation that Leftover Crack and Panic! At The Disco are only about four steps apart. But instead, we decided to link Brian Viglione with another musician who seems to be everywhere at once…

Nine Inch Nails – Starfuckers Inc.

Of course! Viglione drummed on the most recent Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts I-IV. Aside from Mr Reznor himself, of course, the line up for Nine Inch Nails is suitably fluid as to allow us to connect them with a huge number of other bands. Not to mention that the band’s numerous festival appearances mean that they’ve shared a stage with even more. However, we’re going to take the obvious path and point out that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, (well, the 1990s) Reznor produced the album “Portrait Of An American Family” by…

Marilyn Manson – Personal Jesus

Okay, so there are more connections between Manson and Nine Inch Nails than just that, as anyone alive during the 1990s will know, and will be scoffing at me for. They’ve shared musicians, most famously guitarist Twiggy Ramirez, Manson appeared in the video for Starfuckers Inc. and you know what? The list goes on, but a list of reasons that two musical acts are connected is boring, we have to keep up the pace and move onto another, cover as many bases as possible. This particular Manson song is, of course, a cover of a Depeche Mode song. This song was also covered by…

Johnny Cash – Hurt

What is there to say about Johnny Cash that hasn’t already been said? After a career of commercial success as well as artistic merit, he went out with a bang in 2003 with a slew of Rick Rubin produced songs that saw him returning to (maintaining?) the glowing success that he’d seen in his prime. Personal Jesus of course, was one of these, as was Hurt, which seemed the appropriate choice of song for this mixtape, considering that it was penned by another member of this list. Also, it allows me to maintain the theme of cover versions, which is how we reach our next, err, degree? A tribute album to Cash came out last year, with the title On the All Aboard. This album saw the song Man In Black being covered by…

Bouncing Souls – Night Train

Of all of their own original work, Night Train is a song with a particular Johnny Cash feel to it. The song is melancholy and depressing as all get-out, but there’s still a glimmer of hope that comes from accepting the heavy responsibility of having made mistakes. It’s very emotional, but not gratuitously sentimental.

So anyway, now that we’ve established that they’re completely excellent, who are we connecting the ‘Souls to? Well, their first full-length (The Good, The Bad & The Argyle) came out on Chunksaah Records, (way back in ’94, hmm, coincidence?) which is also the record label currently putting out music by…

The World/Inferno Friendship Society!

And the circle is completed! (In six degrees, as God intended.)

Quick update…

So this is it! This is the new build. We decided to go for a WordPress platform so you can (if you have a WordPress user account) log in and comment. There’s a lot of things still to come, including a messageboard and continuing improvements as we figure out the best way to run the site like this. It should all be a lot tidier, a lot friendlier and run a lot quicker.

Many thanks to Jon for designing the new site and implementing it for us! It’s bloody good, isn’t it?

And new content should be up at some point next week –  admittedly too busy playing around with the site stuff at the moment to write anything new.

xoxo – Ripper

PS: Frank Turner AND Set Your Goals are currently in the studio. Best news ever?