Northern Cali’s own A.F.I. (or A Fire Inside, depending on your level of fandom) make their less than triumphant return to the music world this week with their new release, the lamely-titled Crash Love. I had been convinced that the band’s 2006 album Decemberunderground was just about as bad as they could possibly get, but with Crash Love they have proven once and for all that any semblance of “fire” that may have been burning previously in their career has finally been extinguished (ooh see what I did there?)
Decemberunderground was basically the total polar opposite from the hardcore/punk sound that eventually gave the band mainstream success and a spot on many a tween’s iPod alongside My Chemical Romance and bands of their ilk with hits such as Girls Not Grey and Leaving Song Pt. 2. That last album was filled with bland goth dance-y pop tunes like Love Like Winter and the hit Miss Murder. Well, against all odds, Crash Love actually manages to somehow be even worse than Decemberunderground.
This time around, A.F.I has basically abandoned much of the signature sound and aggression that marked their earlier songs (and throughout the breakout album Sing the Sorrow), replacing them with insipid midtempo dreck. Front man Davey Havok squeals and croons along with the songs, but never in a particularly engaging manner.
Even the last album had almost a signature A.F.I tune, Kill Caustic, with a tangible energy and Havok’s high pitched, intense vocals giving the song the typical A.F.I sound, but there really isn't anything close to that this time around.I
I was hoping Crash Love would be a ‘return to form’ by the band but they didn’t seem to care about making me happy. In fact, the b-side I heard on the Internet a few weeks ago, Fainting Spells, is actually better than any of the songs that made the cut for the album, which is obviously a bad sign.
I can really only say there are about 3.5 “good” songs on Crash Love. The opener, Torch Song, is decent and has a good sense of energy and some appealing background vocals. Alas, it is not foreshadowing of a good album. Beautiful Thieves is adequate as the second track, but when you have to use the word ‘adequate’ to refer to one of the album’s ‘better’ tracks that’s never a good thing. Medicate is, dare I say it, good, but it’s obvious the band tried hard with this one to recapture the catchiness of Girls Not Grey and Miss Murder, as the song is pure, straightforward mainstream emo goth rock designed to be played in-store in Hot Topic chains. The only other song I liked somewhat is Cold Hands, and I only like the intro and the song’s chugging guitar riff. The chorus drags it down into mediocrity, as I guess A.F.I wasn’t content to actually craft a good complete song out of it.
I don't really have any desire to listen to the other songs on the record ever again. They're just so...ineffectual. Too Shy to Scream has a silly dance beat and hand claps that work together to create a VERY annoying and poppy sound. End Transmission is throwaway as well, with Havok singing about “the broken radio playing suicide” or some such nonsense, all set to a dull plodding drone. Bleck.
The rest of the tunes on Crash Love aren’t really worth mentioning. I’m sure one or a few of them will end up on the radio, but overall the album is a big steaming pile of boring that really marks (in my mind at least) the creative death of A.F.I. Long gone are the days of inspired, gripping songs such as Days of the Phoenix, Totalimmortal, and God Called in Sick Today. Taking their place are lame formulaic goth punk radio rock tunes that aim to please everyone but fail to hit any targets. No one seems to have really cared about the Used’s recent album, so maybe that goth dance punk thing has finally reached its end…whether or not that's the case, one thing’s for sure: A.F.I has clearly run out of ideas.