28 September 2009
by Jon Kerr
Following the death of their influential producer Jerry Finn, AFI have recruited the chart-friendly Jacknife Lee to co-produce Crash Love, perhaps to right some of the wrongs on the bland Decemberunderground. The band are already brashly hailing it as “the album we’ll be remembered for”. So, should you believe the hype?
Tracks like ‘Beautiful Thieves’ and ‘OK, I Feel Better Now’ see AFI on familiar ground, with their depth of expression and soaring choruses finding Davey Havok on excellent form. His performance is a welcome relief from the vacant, poker-faced emptiness displayed on Decemberunderground. Lead single ‘Medicate’ has genuine scope and shows off the band’s well-honed songwriting. Hiding in amongst the tracklisting are guilty pleasures such as the irresistible ‘Veronica Sawyer Smokes’ (an homage to Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers).
But AFI are showing their age. In a dubious move, they rope in a posse of competition winners for ‘I’m Trying Very Hard To Be Here’ to sing a generic chorus which ends up so bloodless it could’ve been sung by anyone off the street…which I suppose, it is. While it’s hard to dislike this track, it’s just as likely to wind you up because, having spent eighteen years in the business, this is as good as it gets. OK, the astute may spot elements of Colour and The Shape-era Foo Fighters and perhaps a few of their early punk influences, but ultimately you won’t get away from the truth: there is nothing on this album that The Blackout, Enter Shikari and their ilk don’t do with more gusto…and to an audience their own age.
Watch AFI play ‘Medicate’ live
When AFI are good, they’re great (who doesn’t love ‘Girls Not Grey’?) but when they’re bad, they stink. ‘Too Shy To Scream’, altogether far too heavy on the handclaps and the emo “whoh-ohs”, is just nauseating. Even the album opener , ‘Torch Song’, comes across as unremarkable. There’s precious little to put distance between Crash Love and their previous MTV-friendly forays like ‘Miss Murder’.
AFI allegedly stands for “A Fire Inside”. Ladies and gentlemen, that fire is finally out.
Top tracks: Veronica Sawyer Smokes, Okay, I Feel Better Now, Medicate
Sounds Like: The Blackout, Enter Shikari, Jimmy Eat World
AFI – Crash Love tracklisting
Too Shy To Scream
Veronica Sawyer Smokes
OK, I Feel Better Now
I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here
Darling, I Want To Destroy You
It Was Mine