AFI
Bodies


3.0
good

Review

by Sowing STAFF
June 12th, 2021 | 220 replies


Release Date: 06/11/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An ember inside?

Bodies is AFI's eleventh full-length album and it shows. That's precisely the backhanded compliment that it sounds like: they clearly have their formula down pat after thirty years, which means we get another reliably good album (because AFI is a consistently great band), but it comes with very few surprises. There is arguably nothing on Bodies that we have not witnessed from this outfit before in some capacity, even if some of the traits here mark a subtle progression from the sounds established between Crash Love, Burials, and The Blood Album. It's a competent, catchy, and atmospheric piece that will do absolutely nothing to harm nor bolster the group's late-career trajectory.

The preceding Blood Album was at best an uneven experience, but it had cuts like the exhilaratingly chaotic 'Pink Eyes' or the stupidly infectious 'Snow Cats' to keep listeners transfixed upon what might come next (even if some of it was terrible). Bodies turns that concept entirely inside out from the get-go with their most AFI performs the music of AFI song to date in 'Twisted Tongues'. That same dependability can be found all across Bodies, both for its virtues as well as for its confounding boredom. Davey Havok is a charismatic enough frontman to sell any melody, and the band is just as capable as always - but there's no 'Pink Eyes' or 'Beautiful Thieves' to truly elevate this. Bodies skillfully but unexcitingly weaves its way through eleven (mostly two-minute) post-punk tracks influenced by Depeche Mode among other prominent 80s artists, and it almost feels like AFI is getting away with something by pulling an enjoyable experience out of something which progresses with the artistic urgency of a paint-by-numbers watercolor.

That sort of brings us to AFI's undeniable charm: they seem incapable of crafting a subpar album. Even as I decry Bodies' lack of adventure and its noticeable absence of aggression, I find myself begrudgingly impressed by Havok's transcendent vocals on 'Dulceria', the earnest delivery of 'On Your Back' giving weight to lines like "love, show me how it's done", and how 'Begging for Trouble' and 'Looking Tragic' are more infectious than they have any right to be. The verses and choruses are indistinguishable half the time, but there's still a serious draw to these short, punchy songs that is tough to put into words other than maybe chalking it up to unteachable talent and/or the band's longstanding chemistry. It's palatable, and occasionally rather fun - but it's nevertheless difficult to shake the feeling that AFI is merely writing songs to write songs. The zest, the hunger, the fire - it's tough to sense on this one.

For those unfamiliar with AFI, the acronym stands for A Fire Inside. With each successive album following their dark punk opus Sing the Sorrow, that fire has gradually simmered. Their late 90s and early 00s material wasn't the catchiest or most complex music on the market, but they sold it with flair and gusto. Ever since, we've witnessed varying degrees of inspiration and creativity, but they've all had that same empty feeling which comes when a band starts to lose its emotional edge. To AFI's credit, they've done a good job of shifting their aesthetic around over the last twelve years, but even amid the glossy production and abundant hooks, it's hard not to miss the burning passion that AFI once represented. Bodies is a well put together album that will appease hungry fans, but it's not the injection of life that AFI so desperately needs at this stage of its career.



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3.2
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
June 12th 2021


38430 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I did enjoy this, and I love AFI. This is a pretty consistent album (no bad tracks), but it also felt pretty vanilla. I didn't mind the direction they took but it was begging for at least 1 or 2 big energy releases, but those explosive moments never came. Looking forward to everyone's thoughts and feedback.

Digging: Darkside - Spiral

LightChaotic
June 12th 2021


300 Comments


I guess I just don't have a lot in common with all of the older AFI fans that always seem to yearn for a "fire" in their music. Whether that means heavier instrumentals, more aggressive vocals, or lyrics dripping with anger regarding one thing or another. It just seems to me like so many fans want the same shit over and over again and they go into every single album with the same expectations. So of course, those expectations are never met. It's always about what the music isn't instead of what it is.

Black Sails will always be there. Sing The Sorrow will always be there. If I really need poignant lyrics about how fucked up religion can be... I know where to find it. I just don't get the notion of wanting more of the same. Hundreds of bands put out the same shit over and over again and to me... THEY are the ones who have lost their fire. It's just such a shitty attitude to project things like laziness or complacency onto an artist just because you don't like the stuff that they're making or you think that their previous stuff was better. They're trying new shit because that's what is fulfilling to them as artists. Just because it's not loud or verbose doesn't mean that they aren't passionate about what they're doing.

https://youtu.be/BML8egDhM_Q

I listen to Davey talking about Bodies in an interview like this one and then I roll my eyes at the people going, "Yeah, but it's not aggressive enough for me. Do that thing you did 20 years ago instead". Like, it's fine to not like everything that they do... but maybe just accept that something isn't for you instead of feeling the need to judge their commitment to the art that they're making? That's got to be the absolute worst feeling for an artist when it simply isn't true.

I'm not directing all of this at you in particular Sowing. I've just seen this kind of sentiment a lot these days, in a much less nuanced fashion, and it's always baffling to me. I guess AFI is just preaching to the choir when it comes to me though. They originally turned me on to bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, etc. and those have become some of my favorite bands over the years and I fucking love that style of music. Simpler lyrics, dispassionate vocal deliveries, subtler instrumentals, and all. I don't listen to a song like Back From The Flesh and go, "I wish there was a soaring and heavy bridge here though". I'm like, "Wow, this Nightmare Before Christmas-esque bridge is haunting and beautiful". Subtlety and atmosphere are just as enticing to me as pure rage and bellowing cries. And we already have so much of the latter from AFI.


luci
June 12th 2021


12592 Comments


the whole review is in the intro paragraph! would have been bold to just end there tbh

they were my favorite band as a teen but i checked out three albums ago (crash love was the last one i dug)

FadedSun
June 12th 2021


2653 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I can't disagree on this rating. It's not amazing, but it's not terrible either. It fits pretty snug in their discography, but it doesn't stand out either. However, there are standout tracks here. Begging For Trouble is one of my favorite AFI tracks to date.



As for having no bad tracks, I disagree with "Death for the Party". I really can't stand this song, but I think this is something that pertains to me in particular. The metal sounding percussion really grates on my ears, and every beat makes my jaw tense up with that sound. It's difficult to enjoy it. I can delete this track, and it wouldn't have any negative effect on the enjoyment of the album as a whole, as there's nothing cohesive holding every song together as a full experience. Every song feels like it's own thing, not unlike the Blood album.

Sowing
Moderator
June 12th 2021


38430 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@LightChaotic: Love your passion for this band/album and am definitely not hoping to detract from anyone's enjoyment. I'm a big AFI fan myself, and while I definitely prefer their older works to anything they've done after Sing the Sorrow (and especially after Crash Love), my issue isn't merely that they're trying new things. Like you, I don't want to see them execute the same style repeatedly - I just want to feel the same excitement from the band that was tangible in their youth, even if applied in a new direction. I like this album and I like the style they opted for...but I didn't personally get any vibes from the execution to suggest that this album meant anything to them. Obviously that's my interpretation, and reviewing any album is subjective to a degree. Had they pursued this same sound but taken the song in more elaborate and poignant directions, I probably would have given it a 4 or higher. A lot of this felt, to me, like squandered possibilities. Even the closer, which had the potential to be immense, sort of spins in circles rather than progressing and fulfilling the huge promise that it hints at. Maybe restraint is the point and I'm missing something. Either way, I have zero qualms with them chasing new aesthetics and I even encourage it - I just want to feel something behind it, and in this case I didn't. I'm glad you did and I hope some day it clicks with me on a similar level, but until then this will mostly serve as an enjoyable but disposable post-prime outing.

@luci: haha agreed actually, almost ended it there tbh but felt an obligation to elaborate which may or may not have actually added much.

@FadedSun: I don't personally mind that track, and I definitely view this as more consistent across the board than The Blood Album. That said, nothing here approaches the peaks of Blood, Burials, or CL. Agreed with your assessment about how this will fare in their discography.

GreyShadow
June 12th 2021


4948 Comments


yeah your last comment kinda nails it but I'm still far more into this as a complete fanboy. I wish there was more substance here and honestly, if there were, I think this really would have been something special. with 2 albums of short songs in a row I kinda feel like they are gonna continue on this path for whatever reason and I just think it inherently makes it harder for them to flesh out a song.
anyways, still figuring out how I feel about this in terms of rating. Twisted Tongues, No Eyes, and Escape From LA are all amazing and there's not a single bad song (even Looking Tragic has grown on me) but ugh, I just want more from this than I'm getting

Digging: Adjy - The Idyll Opus (I-VI)

LightChaotic
June 12th 2021


300 Comments


Yep, that's fair enough Sowing. All art is subjective but for some reason, music feels the most personal to me. Like, most people either enjoy a movie or they don't. They have fun with a video game or they don't. Music is just a hot mess of opinions. Just taking this album as an example... I've seen people praising and people hating on pretty much every single song on this album. And I know some people definitely agree with you regarding Tied To A Tree. For me, that synth section that leads into the second chorus and then layers back in at the end IS the payoff. Rather than a big explosive payoff, I find that shit to be fucking beautiful. I know the feeling of wanting a song to do something and then it does something else instead. I feel that with the bridge of On Your Back. Sometimes I come to appreciate what's there and sometimes I don't. I find that if I go into songs without any expectations about how it should sound, I'm often caught off-guard but I keep myself from immediately turning that into a negative feeling. And SO many times I will not be feeling a song at first and then I'm addicted to it days later.

GreyShadow
June 12th 2021


4948 Comments


bridge in On Your Back is one of the best parts on the album :/

nightbringer
June 12th 2021


2067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been a fan since Sing the Sorrow. AFI have been the band I've followed the longest in my life. And honestly, Crash Love, Blood, and Bodies are my favourite albums from them. (Okay, Black Sails is up there too). I've mostly out-grown their more intense, angsty work. The more playful, darkly romantic, Cure-worshipping, post-punk sound of their latter releases is much more palatable to me.



I think the band is aging with style and grace and I'm disappointed that they get such a middling reception here. But that's okay. I just want different things from this band than most of Sput does.

AxeToFall93
June 12th 2021


300 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really like this, so far I think this is a major step up from Blood, but not quite up to Burials concernign their more recent stuff.

nightbringer
June 12th 2021


2067 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One small note, Sow:



"it's nevertheless difficult to shake the feeling that AFI is merely writing songs to write songs"



I get what you're saying but this might be a strange way to say it. Writing songs for no other purpose than to write songs strikes me as a perfectly good motive, perhaps even an artistically ideal one. Anything else would be to write songs for instrumental reasons.

keaton_86
June 12th 2021


257 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I think that's the perfect way of saying it and I agree with it too.

Sowing
Moderator
June 12th 2021


38430 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@LightChaotic: That's all perfectly fair. I hope I end up enjoying this as much as you, it's definitely not a bad album and it's kind of addicting.

@nightbringer: Agreed that post-punk Cure worship is the exact right style for aging AFI, and I have no qualms about the direction of their music. I just think this is pretty consistently missing something. Every time a song ends, my reaction is - man, that was just starting to get good and I wish they would have __________. I'm not saying every song should be longer, but a lot of these tracks manage to be repetitive even in their short duration and it just comes across as a lack of imagination. Hence my "writing songs for the sake of writing songs" statement.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2021


5460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Far Too Near is really catchy, I've been listening to it multiple times already today. It's a decent album overall.

DarkNoctus
June 12th 2021


11540 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i really liked the blood album and i have a soft spot for this band as a whole. will be checking this out.

Eons
June 12th 2021


3166 Comments


this bands sound is like hand sanitizer to me, literally no grit at all, so clean

LightChaotic
June 12th 2021


300 Comments


If you want grit from AFI, there's plenty to choose from in their back catalog. This is by far their "cleanest" album.

FadedSun
June 12th 2021


2653 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm with Sowing's assessment that there's just something missing here that could have brought it to more outstanding levels. I can roll with whatever AFI does. There's nothing I want from them, and they can do as they please. I love the changing styles. During this album there were songs that gave me goosebumps, but also songs that left me incredibly bored - not even realizing what happened. A song that just came and went. I personally think this sound is best suited for Blaqk Audio, but they seem to be wanting to mix the two up again.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


3170 Comments


damn it really do be washed-up-bands-fulfilling-their-one-record-every-fourish-years o'clock with this and the rise against n black keys (& probably more) records lol

Eons
June 12th 2021


3166 Comments


I dont really even like their early punk stuff, aside from a few songs, I always thought the guy sounded super whiny and feminine but I understand that that's literally just his personality so I don't really judge him for that, just a personal preference.



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