Crash Love

AFI

Interscope, 2009

http://www.afireinside.net

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/07/2009

California natives AFI (A Fire Inside) burst onto the scene in 1991  in a burst of black flames, but subsequent discs found them tempering their goth-punk tendencies into a decidedly poppier, more radio-friendly version of their cult-favorite sound. Where 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, the group’s first major label release, found AFI’s frayed, raging heart in place, its follow-up Decemberunderground was a more bloodless affair, a bit of a defiant kiss-off to their hardcore roots.

Their latest, Crash Love, keeps them on the track of crunching yet palatable punkish rock. The pairing of Davey Havok’s high, idiosyncratic vocals and Jade Puget’s richly textured guitar sounds provides the beating pulse of this record, adding liveliness into Havok’s frequent meditations on death and destruction. Opener “Torch Song” recovers the energy of some of Sing The Sorrow’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 greatest moments, layering thick, feedback-drenched riffs with dynamic harmonies as Havok proclaims, “I’d tear out my eyes for you, my dear.” Macabre, to be sure, but if anyone can make such a line sound like a love song, it’s the dramatic, delightfully androgynous Havok. Next up, “The Beautiful Thieves” injects a dose of Queen-esque bombast as it explores Havok’s fascination with the divide between light and darkness (“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 strength of Crash Love is that it diverges from the electro-pop chilliness of Decemberunderground, feeling rawer and more urgent in every aspect, from Havok’s emotiveness to relying on Puget’s soaring vocals rather than on largely soulless synths. Take album centerpiece “OK, I Feel Better Now,” whose delicate, chiming guitar intro gives way to dynamic chord changes, a crescendoing climax, and smooth production (courtesy of Jackknife LE, of U2 fame). They throw their whole soul into this track, and though it’s a little slicker than fans of their earlier work will be used to, it’s an intriguing development for this ever-evolving band. Meanwhile, lead single “Medicate” is a bit obvious lyrically, but Puget’s guitar work is excellent, driving this aggressive rocker to its fiery climax.   

In many ways, this is their most easily accessible disc, featuring some instantly catchy cuts that are less shrouded in darkness. “Veronica Sawyer Smokes,” an ode to Winona Ryder in Heathers, is almost bouncy in its thriving energy, while Havok sounds better than ever; his particular vocal style is definitely not for everyone, being that he favors a distinctively high register and tends towards wailing, but he’s far more contained and evocative on this disc, adding in subtler flourishes. This disc isn’t as seamless as their high-water mark, Sing The Sorrow, but it does have many moments that could go toe-to-toe with some of AFI’s best material. Better yet, they’ve revealed themselves as a group that is not content to ride on their past laurels, innovating their sound at every opportunity while still retaining their core sensibilities, turning death and darkness into something strangely enjoyable.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2009 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope, and is used for informational purposes only.