AFI
Crash Love


4.0
excellent

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
September 22nd, 2009 | 420 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Crash Love is subtle and intricate, an unexpectedly focused affair.

Throughout AFI’s 15 year, eight-album tenure, they’ve never stuck with the same sound for more than a couple of albums. This approach has cost them two founding members and a replacement bassist, while, like any punk band that have released more than one record, they’ve been accused of selling out several times over. From their Misfits-inspired beginnings, they’ve taken in a beefier, Black Flag-influenced sound, absorbed goth rock influences with the addition of guitarist Jade Puget and fiddled with electronic pop on 2006’s unfairly-maligned Decemberunderground, but their evolution has always been progressive- not necessarily in the musical sense, but in their unwillingness to turn back and re-tread former glories. Crash Love smashes precedent to pieces, but, far from being a regression, it’s the best move they could have made at this stage in their career.

To call Decemberunderground an existential crisis might be a bit of an over-statement, but its effects were not lost on the band. Despite broadening their appeal substantially, Decemberunderground divided fiercely both the band’s casual and hardcore fan base. The Despair Faction will always keep the faith, but, even so, many were disillusioned by the changes. Though they’ve never explicitly admitted it, Jade and singer Davey Havok created the side-project Blaqk Audio as a vent for their electronic work in order to preserve AFI as a pop-punk project. As a result, Crash Love does sometimes feel like a step backwards, with loud echoes of 2003’s Sing The Sorrow and 2000’s Art Of Drowning, but they’ve also managed to incorporate enough new influences to keep things fresh, and the result is a far more subtle and accomplished record.

Crash Love plays its strongest hand right off the bat. ‘Torch Song’ fades in slowly with mournful, dissonant feedback, before launching into a guitar riff strongly reminiscent of ‘Days Of The Phoenix,’ while the cherubic layered vocals on the chorus recall a later single, Sing The Sorrow’s ‘Silver & Cold.’ The strong start continues with ‘Beautiful Thieves,’ a sturdy glam rocker with a bombastic chorus and a semi-facetious lyric that continues Havok’s ambiguous relationship with the glamour of death and the macabre: ”If we run this light, take a little right / No one will care at all / We can burn it and leave, for we are the beautiful thieves / No one suspects at all.”

The early songs in particular make it clear that Davey’s fascination with death and self-destruction has dissipated not one bit. And, while Crash Love never quite hits the lyrical highs of Sing The Sorrow, it’s earthier and more relatable on a human level. That said, ‘Veronica Sawyer Smokes,’ which may just be the best track ever written about Winona Ryder, has him at his verbose best, singing: ” I saw you every time I closed my eyes, in the Hughes film I had scored, produced and starred in, in my mind.” Nevertheless, it’s Davey’s vocal contribution that makes the song: the layering of voices on the chorus is sublime, and he litters the track with minor inflections that simply didn’t appear on the previous album: for such an idiosyncratic vocalist, his performances on Decemberunderground were almost deadpan, owing in the main to the album’s overbearing synth-pop influence.

Jade Puget, too, steps up in a big way. ‘OK, I Feel Better Now’ is his standout performance, as indeed it is for the band at a whole. He starts off with a trademark chiming chord sequence, before working in strummed octaves and some unexpected, game-changing chord changes in the third verse. The continuous innovation suggests he may have written the greater part of the song. The track builds to a grand, almost U2-like crescendo that almost certainly bears the imprint of producer Jacknife Lee, he who manned the boards for the Irish band’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. It’s one of the few moments on the record that feels over-produced (the others being throwaway single ‘Medicate’ and the otherwise infectious ‘I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here’), as in general the album is polished in a way that accentuates rather than conceals their unique features.

Crash Love doesn’t demand the listener’s attention to the same degree that Decemberunderground did, but closer inspection reveals a more intricate and well-constructed album. It rarely lacks for quality, but it does occasionally sound a little disjointed: tracks like ‘Too Shy To Scream’ and ‘Medicate’ are fun, but they sound misplaced next to the more subtle and refined ‘Beautiful Thieves’ and ‘Veronica Sawyer Smokes,’ so the album itself doesn’t always add up to the sum of its parts. Nonetheless, Crash Love is an unexpectedly focused affair, and a couple of AFI classics-in-waiting therein make it well-worth a flutter.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


17222 Comments


well it looks like I'm gonna have to listen to this now. you better be right....

AtavanHalen
September 22nd 2009


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Dude what the shit; lightning quite write-up.
Like a miniature Buddha, covered in hair...

tomr4
September 22nd 2009


192 Comments


listening to the album stream now....good stuff thus far.


too bad I still hate the cover art.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


17222 Comments


wow, this isn't totally gay.

EasternLight
September 22nd 2009


2700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Great review, I agree completely with like, everything you said.

And the bonus tracks theyre going to release sound really great.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


20857 Comments


Looking forward to hearing this (seeing them live in February).

The way you have explained the album Dave, sort of gives me the same impression I had of Trey's review of the new The Used album. Would it be right that AFI have taken most of what they have produced before and combined it in a sort of subtle fashion to progress?

BTW, just a couple of typos near the start of the review:

- 2nd para: Decemberundergrounf
- 1st para: any punk band that have release more than one record,

SatoIsNotPlace
September 22nd 2009


99 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Delightful offering from AFI.. only "gripe" is with some lyrical content being rather straight-forward.. also, nice review.

PatchworkNeurology
September 22nd 2009


352 Comments


OMG really, if this is good i'll shit my balls out my ass.
I miss AFI being the super fun punk/pop band they were.

zuzek
September 22nd 2009


751 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review. AFI hasn't been this good in quite some time and I'm loving it.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


7026 Comments


Great review. I'm halfway through the album, and I'm not really sure what to think of it. This could be anywhere from a 2.5 to a 3.5.

LisbonGirls
September 22nd 2009


832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

and everybody was worried about this sucking...well except for me of course.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


7026 Comments


Is it just me or are the worst tracks also the ones with the worst titles (see: "Too Shy To Scream" and "I'm Trying Very Hard To Be Here")?

Shrapnel94
September 22nd 2009


2213 Comments


WTF DIS ALBUM WUZ SUPPOSED TO SUCK!

qwe3
September 22nd 2009


21366 Comments


nice. i shall get this

myhigherpie
September 22nd 2009


3027 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

no rly this was supposed to suck.

but I'm actually kind of happy now. I was hoping this would somehow exceed expectations.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
September 22nd 2009


7026 Comments


Album cover and song titles still suck but thankfully the music does not.

myhigherpie
September 22nd 2009


3027 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I still hope that they release an alternative album art though...

catsinflats
September 22nd 2009


129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the album art doesnt bother me too much, im more surprised by how good the album is

PuddlesPuddles
September 22nd 2009


4786 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gonna get this because of this review and for the hell of it. Heard the single, wasn't too bad, although wasn't amazing.

catsinflats
September 22nd 2009


129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i doubt they will release an alternate album cover

have they ever in the past?



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