Release Date: 9/29/09
This review was initially written 9/29/09 and contains some minor edits.
AFI‘s eighth studio album Crash Love, is quite simply, very good. The number one obstacle with every new AFI album since 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, is getting over the initial disappointment of not getting exactly what you wanted or expected. I had the privilege of hearing “Torch Song”, “Beautiful Thieves”, “End Transmission”, and “Darling, I Want to Destroy You”, a couple weeks before the albums release. Quite honestly, “Medicate” and those four songs combined didn’t give me the highest hopes for Crash Love. Also, it felt as if I was listening to a completely different band. However, those four songs really grew on me after around eight listens, my favorite of those being “End Transmission”, and a short while after that, “Torch Song”. After hearing the rest of the album at least ten times now, those songs are better in context of the albumand there are some other incredible songs. Classics, even.
“Too Shy to Scream”, “Veronica Sawyer Smokes”, and “I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here” all struck me very quickly. They are super catchy and energetic and all clock in at under three minutes. I loved the latter two songs on my first listen, and “Too Shy to Scream” has grown to be one of my favorites. There were a couple other growers on this album, that didn’t impress me much at first: “OK, I Feel Better Now” and “It Was Mine”, but there’s nothing on this album I’d consider filler at this point.
The writing on this album is very guitar driven as compared with 2006’s Decemberunderground, which is refreshing. There’s strong ’80’s influence in some of the guitar work, as well as in Davey’s voice. Also, Jade’s impressive guitar work is back. It was kind of replaced with his programming and synthesizers on Decemberunderground. This album is essentially more stripped down and focused. THe lyrics too are more stripped down – far more obvious and less poetic than those written before.
I do wish the production were better overall though. The tracks are too loud and subsequently have a distinct lack of dynamics. A problem they have continued up to 2017’s AFI (The Blood Album). Of course, AFI’s hardcore background also still prevents them from having the level of nuance common to their ’80’s musical hero’s.
Davey’s voice sounds the best it has been since 1998’s Black Sails in the Sunset or 2000’s The Art of Drowning. The reason I make this comparison, not that he sounds like he does on those album, is because that was the last time his voice had a strong identity. Without taking the music into consideration, you could put on either of those albums and know it was AFI from Davey’s voice alone. On Sing the Sorrow his voice had a more generic sound to it, similar to that of his contemporaries of the time. On Crash Love he puts on a great vocal performance with a decent amount of variety. Just compare “Torch Song”, “Darling, I Want to Destroy You”, and “Sacrilege”. It’s also worthwhile to note there is absolutely no screaming on this album, which opens the possibility for an expanded fan base, and combined with the mostly glowing critical reviews, this might be a considerably more popular album for them [2018 edit: this certainly turned out to not be true of course. As of around 2014, this album had only sold about 152,000 copies in the U.S., compared with the two preceding albums’ 1,000,000+ each]. Lyrically, it’s interesting to note Davey’s take on popular culture, or more accurately, celebrity culture, which is a big lyrical theme, as they become more and more a part of it [2018 edit: again, obviously this was actually the beginning of the end… for both rock music as well as AFI’s mainstream popularity].
I strongly recommend getting the Deluxe Version of this album on iTunes, as it contains some excellent B-sides. The Decemberunderground B-side “Fainting Spells” is worth it alone… that would’ve been one of the best songs on that album. Sing the Sorrow B-side “100 Words” is also pretty good, albeit perhaps a little too similar to “This Time Imperfect”. “Too Late for Gods” and “Breathing Towers to Heaven”, iTunes exclusives, are also especially great.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of this album comes down to how well you can get over your expectations of what an AFI album should sound like. If you can get past that barrier you’ll find one of the better rock albums of the decade.
Highlights: “Torch Song”, “Too Shy to Scream”, “Veronica Sawyer Smokes”, all of the bonus tracks.