Review Summary: Dance the sorrow
If you told me a year ago that AFI frontman Davey Havok had an electronic side project called Blaqk Audio, I most likely would have avoided it at all costs. AFI’s best days are behind them, so there’s little promise in the idea of everyone’s favorite tatted-up emo guy getting his bleeps and bloops on in his mid-40s. However, as with some things that sound truly awful, it somehow, some way defies logic and actually sounds good. I guess I should be glad I discovered this album by accident, because in all the cosmos and alternate dimensions in existence, it’s probably the only pathway that would have led to me writing about this album.
Only Things We Love
is an album filled to the brim with industrial-pop bangers, applying catchy grooves and gritty bass to Havok’s pop circa Crash Love
melodies, all while electronic dance vibes blast away in the background. It maintains the darker edge that has always defined AFI, yet somehow manages to sound peppy and enjoyable all the way through. There’s an interesting conflict of tones that exist between Havok’s morbid voice and music that sounds like it could have been applied to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion
, a contrast that could have been either laughably bad or surprisingly good, but not really anything in between. In a sense, that’s what we do witness on Only Things We Love
– it’s pretty much only things one could love or hate, with the lever tipping heavily in favor of the former.
Blaqk Audio’s fourth studio album is at its best when Havok and Puget (AFI’s guitarist, who works with Davey here) go full-blown eccentric, following their whims to the furthest corners of why would you even try that
territory – because for whatever reason, this project can pull off ridiculous better than most. ‘Muscle and Matter’ comes to mind, thumping along to a heavy stomp beat and wildly untamed synths atop a melody that vaguely recalls something Tears for Fears might have written in the mid-80s. It sounds off the charts, and it works because of how ambitious it is. Tracks like ‘Infinite Skin’, ‘The Viles’, and ‘Unstained’ all achieve success for similar reasons, employing everything from blast beats to glitchy, alarm-clock-styled electronic effects. Nothing feels out of the question which is Only Things We Love
’s greatest asset.
Across twelve tracks, Havok and Puget become a little overly absorbed in their approach (nearly every song has a huge, danceable groove), which results in some diminishing returns across the album’s back half. However, it also opens the door for ‘Summer’s Out Of Sight’, a breath of punky, poppy fresh air that already feels like it’s ready to hit the road with you this summer featuring an upbeat pace, hook-laden melody, and wistful, nostalgic lyrics to shout along to. This is an album that might be best digested in smaller doses, in order to avoid the feeling that all these songs sort of just wash each other out – but there’s no denying that Blaqk Audio have stumbled onto something really entertaining here, which isn’t something you’d expect from the guys who once recorded Sing the Sorrow
. Relax your muscles a bit and give Blaqk Audio a chance; after all, I’d rather hear Havok sounding rejuvenated and fresh while writing industrial/electronic dance-pop than have another overwrought Blood Album
on our hands, where he sings about wishing he were dead for the fiftieth time.