Review Summary: What the hell were they thinking?
Hold on, because this is going to be a long one.
You may be thinking, "Oh look, it's time for a new AFI record, this should be fun." This couldn't be further from the truth. Let's look at some basic facts about this album. Three years ago in 2006 AFI released what is indisputably their best album, Decemberunderground, where they finally succeeded perfectly in mixing arena-ready pop with their pretentious goth stylings. This album basically takes everything good about Decemberunderground and makes it suck. You know the cool intro "Prelude 21/12?" Now there's just some ***ty horror samples and then a hair metal riff in "Torch Song." Truly vomit worthy stuff. And that's just one example: all throughout the album the band consistently is annoying.
Partly because this album sucks, a lot of people have thought it is good. That's okay, there's more stupid people than smart people of course. I'm sure the alt rock crowd and the people who hated everything that made AFI "AFI" will just eat this load of crap up. Unfortunately it does not change the fact that this album commits the worst sin in music: BORINGNESS.
Everyone by now knows that AFI were often criticized for being one of the more queer bands of the 00's, and I'm not going to lie, Davey looked like a woman back in the DU days. But now they've given up the glitter, given up the drama, and look what we have here, a terrible album. Does anyone honestly find "Medicate" half as exciting as "Love Like Winter" or "Miss Murder"? If they say they do they have to be joking me; no explosiveness in the chorus, no surprises in the production, no vocal range. Just Davey being as bland as possible while the band plays radio-friendly by-the-numbers faux-hardcore riffs. Oh, and Jade does his worst solo ever at the end.
Rightfully so, AFI's detractors have noted that this has been a further deflation of their original hardcore values. Of course AFI sucked when they were a hardcore band, but it's worth noting: If Answer That and Stay Fashionable or even Art of Drowning is your thing, don't even bother with this.
But what does all this mean to you? Who cares that a band made a bad album, it happens all the time, right? Wrong. Because this album is being critically hailed as some sort of wonderfully focused album, AFI "succeeding" at doing something new. This is patently false. Nothing here is new, you can tell they just listened to some Smiths and said "Hey we'll add some delay effects on it so make it sound arena-y and BAM! critics will call it maturity!"
"Oh," you say, "but I enjoy the spidery guitar work and bland vocals!" So? Just because you like bad music doesn't mean you have the right to call that bad music good. Davey Havok's vocals here are some of the worst vocals I have ever heard. Compare them to DU and you'll see what I mean.
Let's put it this way: this band has enormous potential. But with this album they have decided to abandon what they clearly loved doing (DU style music) just to please critics. The old hardcore fans, pay attention: THIS is where AFI sold out.
Erring on the side of getting this thing? Why? Have you listened to any of it yet? Have you listened to "End Transmission," an attempt at 80's post-punk that wouldn't have made a blip on the radar back then but means something now just because AFI's doing something "different"? What about the annoying "I Am Trying Very Hard to be Here" ("Here" being "in the RS albums of the year list")? "Flash, flash, car crash!" Have you ever heard a more annoying refrain? These anoying gang vocals are to be found littered throughout the album. With DU AFI had found a way to balance out some of those infamously bad AFI backing vocals, improving them with production and less frequency; they smash that apart here, searching in vain for something people will want to shout-along to.
K, so you think you're probably not gonna get this now, but you're wondering: is there anything
good here? Let me answer it simply: no.
Is any of this review worth your time? You bet it is. After all the critical hype this bland, lame album is picking up, you probably thought "Hey, I'll go buy this." Think again. You're being fooled. AFI have went from having a truly unique artistic vision to crafting an album carefully programmed to appeal to the critics, who still can't get over Morrisey and the Cure. But do you think stadium rock guitar riffs/solos really go with Moz-mimmicking vocals? Yes, it sounds as bad as it is.
Nothing here is anything more than my opinion of course. Who knows, maybe you'll hear the stunningly unimpressive closer "It Was Mine" and think "Hey, I like how for the first time ever AFI ended on an unsatisfyingly reserved note." Or "Oh cool, great gospel-style choir vocals" when you hear "Torch Song". You know, whatever you want to listen to, fine. But don't talk about it being "good" as if that's objectively true, when it's actually patently false.
Go ahead, buy the album, see if I care. It absolutely sucks. But if you buy it, at least get it from Target or iTunes so you can get some store promotional bonus tracks. (There's the ol' punk spirit coming back.) Even though quite honestly, "100 Words" may be one of the finest AFI songs ever made. But who cares? This is a review about the new content being marketed as a part of the Crash Love album, and the Crash Love album isn't what it's all cracked up to be. It's more like the sound of AFI cracking up to me.