Album Review: AFI – Crash Love


Crash Love

It’s been three long years, but AFI has returned with Crash Love, their eighth major release in their nearly two decade-long career. It was worth the wait. To put it in perspective, Crash Love is darker and less poppy than their last effort; 2006’s Decemberunderground, more melodic than Black Sails in the Sunset, brighter than The Art of Drowning and most comparable to Sing the Sorrow.
Crash Love as a whole is probably the most lyrically relatable and even-keeled album thus far. The guys have really mastered their song sequencing, with lyrical and musical themes carrying over from one track to the next. ‘Beautiful Thieves’ and ‘End Transmission’, tracks two and three respectively, deal with rebellion and obsession with fame and infamy. ‘Beautiful Thieves’ lyrics Just be sure to wear your best/ We will surely make the covers run perfectly into ‘End Transmission’, You pressed your mouth on mine and said they’d call us stars.
To those who ignored the release of Decemberunderground and Blaqk Audio’s Cex Cells (Singer/writer Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget’s side project), ‘Too Shy to Scream’ and ‘Veronica Sawyer Smokes’ may seem uncharacteristic. However, they are clearly homage to Havok’s love of 80’s pop. ‘Too Shy To Scream’ takes a page right out of The Cure’s songwriting handbook, pairing a finger-snapping beat with melancholy lyrics like “I’d die if you only met my eyes/ Before you pass by, will you pause to break my heart?” The next song, <a href="‘Veronica Sawyer Smokes’“>’Veronica Sawyer Smokes’ continues in the same upbeat 80’s vein, but perhaps a little too obviously. The title references Winona Ryder’s character in 1988’s dark comedy, Heathers. (This is AFI’s second lyrical reference to Ryder, if anyone is counting.) Not to mention, this song would fit perfectly into a John Hughes movie soundtrack (he’s even mentioned in the lyrics).
AFI does what they do best on this album- cater to the dark, poetic and melancholy souls who have been following them for years. Their fan club is called The Despair Faction, after all. Most of the tracks, including the first single, ‘Medicate’ follow a general theme of broken-heartedness and longing. While writing this album, Havok didn’t seem to consult his dictionary and thesaurus as much as before, but that doesn’t make his lyrics any less poetic. I’ll tell you this- Crash Love has given me enough angsty material for my MSN and Facebook statuses for the next few months!
There’s a couple of things missing from this album that long-time fans will certainly notice; the first being the opening song. The last five albums have begun with a short opening track, usually comprised of some sort of chant (also used to kick off their shows during concert tours). Crash Love doesn’t have one of these. In its place is ‘Torch Song’ which is epic enough to make me forgive and forget broken tradition. Another thing missing from this album is Havok’s signature screams. Even on Decemberunderground, their poppiest album yet, there were at least two very intense songs. However, AFI is known for leaving some of their best material off their regular album releases and Crash Love is no different. ‘Fainting Spells’ is by far the best and hardest song on the album, but is available only on the Deluxe Edition, along with three other tracks. Even better is the iTunes Deluxe download which comes with an additional two tracks and a wealth of bonus materials. If you’re not stuck on having physical copies of your albums (like I am), I would recommend taking this approach.
One tradition that AFI did not break with this album is their involvement with their fans. Since the release of 2003’s Sing the Sorrow there has been an ongoing “mystery” set up by the band. Clues to the next stage of the mystery have been dropping since the promotion of Crash Love started. The message board is rife with lyric dissections and theories ranging from Julius Caesar’s assassins to David Bowie’s Hunky Dory album. If you want to spend a few hours catching up, this is a great place to start. Also, earlier this year an online contest was run to give fans a chance to be on the album. You can hear them chanting during the chorus of ‘I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here’.
In total, this album is growing on me more and more. At first, all that caught me was the great hook in every song. After a few listens it becomes obvious how impeccably crafted this album is (even despite parting ways with producer-genius David Bottrill early in recording). The flow is set up perfectly, almost to the point of being a concept album. Everyone needs to check this one out. I’d let you borrow my copy but I can’t stop playing it.

1. Torch Song
2. Beautiful Thieves
3. End Transmission
4. Too Shy to Scream
5. Veronica Sawyer Smokes
6. OK, I Feel Better Now
7. Medicate
8. I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here
9. Sacrilege
10. Darling, I Want to Destroy You
11. Cold Hands
12. It Was Mine

(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- October 16, 2009)


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on February 17, 2011, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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