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Thursday, October 8, 2009

AFI: Crash Love

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

The alternative/punk rock band AFI (A Fire Inside) formed 18 years ago.

I was 6-years-old and I don’t pretend to know anything about their earlier material.

I didn’t get into AFI until their sixth release which was in 2003, Sing the Sorrow, (which was ranked #77 greatest guitar album of all time in Guitar World magazine) and that was by a beautiful mistake.

See, when I was in high school — like an idiot — I would sometimes just buy random albums from bands I had never knew much about based on which record label the band was on, the stickers on the front of the CDs that would say something like “for fans of...” and in this instance, the price.

It was $6.99 at the best record store in town, Record Den (free plug...not that anyone reads these things anyway.)

Since then, I’ve been a pretty big fan. Usually when I get into a band so late in their career, I go back and listen to and normally purchase their older material, but I never did that with AFI because “Sing the Sorrow” was when they made their transition from a hardcore punk band into a mainstream alternative rock/punk band.

Don’t get me wrong, I listen to many underground indie/punk bands, but AFI’s older material never really interested me. Too fast, too punky for my liking.

Ok, so that was a long introduction to this review.

On Sept. 29, the band released their eighth studio album, Crash Love, which picks off right where Sing the Sorrow and their 2006 release Decemberunderground left off.

Admittedly, I haven’t gotten to listen to this album as much as I’d normally give a new release partially because the past two weeks I’ve purchased six albums, so I’m trying to spread the love between my six-disc changer in my car.

Upon a few listens though, lead singer Davey Havok’s unique voice and Jade Puget’s shredding guitar skills are the highlight of the album.

Crash Love lacks any truly haunting tracks that were were featured on Sing the Sorrow (“Miseria Cantare,” “This Time Imperfect (hidden track)” or “The Leaving Song”) or Decemberunderground (“Endlessly, She Said”), but it remains consistent in the pop department.

The album jumps into “Torch Song,” one of the better tracks on the album with a great guitar riff from Puget and sets the tone for the reamining 11 songs.

“I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here,” an ode to Hollywood’s fakeness, delivers maybe the quirkiest lines on the album. ("No one’s from here, no one my dear, not even the trees. So change your name, just keep your face. We’re temporary anyway...Flash, flash, car crash, we’re no fixtures. Quick, now, quick, take our picture.”)

“Okay, I Feel Better Now” is probably the closest song that resembles material from Sing for Sorrow and “Medicate,” the albums first single, is far from great but offers a great breakdown with a decent Puget solo near the finale. Wasn't too big on this song at first, but it really grew on me.

“It Was Mine,” the album’s closer tries to be that haunting track that I mentioned before from previous albums, but misses the eeriness and emotion from the ones stated above that were featured on Sing the Sorrow and Decemberunderground.


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