AFI – Crash Love

Posted on October 12, 2009

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I know it’s wrong but when an album named as pretentiously, heart-stuck-to-my-sleave-with-safety-pins, emo as “Crash Love” lands on the desk, tiny alarm bells start to ring. With a modicum of mind-opening though I can look past that, many great albums have appalling names and covers (feel free to add your particular favourites o the end of this review). What really worried me was that Crash Love is the follow-up to 2006’s hideous Decemberunderground, an album that ditched what AFI were all about in favour of transparently histrionic scene-chasing, complete with matching band tunics (cringe) and fringes that The Lostprophets would think were a bit long.

Fortunately from what I’ve gathered from all the interviews and pre-release promotion it seems that the fringes have hit the floor and the matching wardrobe has been abandoned. Unfortunately what quickly becomes clear when listening to Crash Love is that this hasn’t meant a return to quality and the punk-rock fire that used to be AFI’s stock in trade, to be brutally honest Crash Love is simply boring.

For a start the vocalist Davey Havok sounds so laid back as to be horizontal, the majority of vocals beginning and ending in a faltering croon, always promising to break into a more traditional breathless growl but constantly disappointing, with Torch Song and Darling, I Want To Destroy You and Veronica Sawyer Smokes being indicative of a lot of the sub-Jimmy Eat World fair on Crash Love. A side effect of this is that a fairly week set of angsty lyrics is cast into a harsh light, where it could have been excused more easily if the delivery was wrapped in a bit more penache.

Frustratingly there is the germ of a decent idea, and with more time taking over the performance and lyrics then Crash Love could have been a serviceable foray into a softer side of rock. Even then though it would have been better as a side project or released by a “mystery band” like Greenday did with the Foxborough Hottubs. As it is, the concept of Crash Love feels rushed, overly long and its execution is, in places, fatally flawed.

There are good tracks though, with I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here providing a nice mid-tempo stomp and backing vocal, whilst Medicate and Cold Hands provide lively choruses and a few well placed, jagged riffs.

Overall though, it seems that with albums 7 and 8, AFI have stumbled into rock band middle-age. If Decemberunderground was an attempt to be cool again by subscribing to trends and fashions too young for them (akin to buying leather trousers or a sports convertible any time around the age of forty), then Crash Love is the early signs of the menopause; a few hot, angry flushes followed by a slightly hollow, directionless ire which throbs under the surface before petering out completely.

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