Crash Love review by AFI

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  • Released: Sep 29, 2009
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.3 (93 votes)
AFI: Crash Love
9

Sound — 9
Let me just start by saying that I've followed AFI since the Art of Drowning was released. I own all of their albums and most of their rare tracks and b-sides, so I wanted to give their newest effort a fair review. I looked forward to the release of this album with a sort of nervous anticipation; if it got any worst than 2006's Decemberundergroud, I decided that I may not have it in me to continue to purchase the band's music, however much I love their older body of work. Fortunately, this album rekindled my belief in AFI. And while I still feel that 2003's Sing the Sorrow was, and probably always will be, the band's highest creative point, Crash Love comes close, and, with a little open-mindedness on the listener's part, should not disappoint. As usual, the band's sound has changed dramatically. We've seen them develop from an 18-year-old, angst-filled punk band, to an almost synth-pop sound (in some aspects at least). Every album has been completely different, with 1999's Black Sails in the Sunset and 2000's The Art of Drowning arguably being the most similar in style. Surprisingly, this album drops almost every electronic aspect that the band had delved into before, presumably because key songwriters Davey Havok and Jade Puget scratched their electronic itch with their Blaqk Audio side project. Crash Love has a much more apparent sound to it, going back to the basics of the bands' instruments and using electronic elements in only a few places (such as the intro to Cold Hands, or the synthesized vocal portion of Darling, I Want to Destroy You). All instruments are ever-present, and all instrumental parts can be clearly heard in the mix throughout the album (something I found to not hold on Sing the Sorrow; Hunter Burgan's bass parts were almost inaudible at times). The album has a more radio-friendly vibe to it, and could even be considered poppy, but is still very clearly AFI. Musically, this album sees the whole instrumental section of the band outdoing its prior work. The band's rhythm section is very strong this time around. Hunter's bass parts are interesting and very tight, and Adam Carson's drumming is the driving force of the mix, pushing the album along at a steady pace. Carson pulls heavily from his punk roots, especially on tracks like Sacrilege, but spices his beats with subtle fills and technical trickiness that shows the listener from the start that this is a more complex and technically savvy drummer than before. Despite the band's rhythm section doing a very impressive job with this release, I feel that Jade Puget is the real shining star of the musical mix. This album finds him delving just a little bit more into the world of guitar effects; we see him using a little more delay, his reverb has become a little more lush, and there's even a small taste of wah in the end of I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here. Jade supplies us with original, intelligent riffs (like the sporadic guitar intro of Torch Song, the gorgeous, harmonic-aided intro to Beautiful Thieves, or the main riff of End Transmission, one of Puget's best to date), and his rhythm parts are solid, but never boring. He even samples us with a little more of his technical skill with this release, presenting not one, but TWO guitar solos, during the tracks Medicate and Sacrilege. We see the band's possible influences exposed a little bit more on this record, with some tracks showing a slight 80's sound, but only in the best way possible. Parts of the guitar work on Veronica Sawyer Smokes remind me personally of the Smiths' Johnny Marr, and the production of the track Ok, I Feel Better Now nods at U2. The one song that I have problems with musically is Too Shy to Scream. I find this track weak both lyrically and musically, and I get the impression that the band just kind of threw it together in the attempt to create something a little more upbeat. It has a little bit of a rockabilly sound to it, while sounding poppy and a little bit indie at the same time, and though I understand what the band may have been trying to do, I think the album would have benefited from the track's absence. I also find there to be a lack of epic sounding bridges in the songs on Crash Love. Medicate's bridge is probably as close as the album gets. Not necessarily too much of a setback, but something an AFI fan looks for. The music of Crash Love is technical, layered, and never dull, and despite some minor criticism, I honestly feel like this is the best instrumental work that the band has produced thus far. It is both beautiful and tactful, and is quite simply the best feature of this album. In terms of production value, I reserve judgment until I listen to the album on a CD format. I've only streamed it on the band's Myspace, which may or may not be a lower quality than the hard-copy release format will be. I will say that it sounds pretty good so far. And though I feel that Decemberunderground was the weakest release by the band, I also feel that it had the clearest, most well produced sound of their releases, or of most releases I'd ever heard from any band. I can expect the hard copy of Crash Love will be of a similar caliber.

Lyrics — 6
Unfortunately, this category is where my qualms with Crash Love lie. While I usually enjoy Davey Havok's lyrical musings, they seem a little recycled this time around. The lyrics are penned most similarly to those of the Blaqk Audio Cex Cells album, which means that they're a little less abstract than AFI albums have been in the past. This could be seen as either a strength or a weakness. Die hard fans of the band's older work (STS and before) all seem to love the completely metaphoric, abstract lyrical ideas that were so prominent in the music before (which are also a major criticism of AFI haters). They allowed you to interpret your own meaning, and also (in my opinion) saved the band from being pigeonholed into the genre of 'emo.' Their lyrics were always dark and rather serious, but with them being so abstract, they could be about anything, which I believed deterred people from damning the band into a set genre. Decemberunderground found Davey's writing to be a little more literal, and Cex Cells was even more so. The pattern holds true, as Crash Love is more literal than ever. This may make it a little bit more accessible to the casual listener who may not know what to make of words like 'amaranth', but I find them to be a little bit too straightforward at times, making the songs almost corny in some spots. I find Medicate, the album's first single to be slightly so, as well as parts of End Transmission (though End Transmission's lyrics are very good overall). For instance, in the bridge there's a part where Davey says, "And you said 'stay strong'" and it just kind of makes me cringe because it reminds me of Prince or something, and just comes off as kind of corny for AFI to do. Also, some of the rhyming is a little bit predictable, like in the bridge of Medicate: "Can you tell me how it feels? Can we pretend this is real?" It just sounds so cliche and typical of the genre. And the song Too Sh to Scream's lyrics and basically make it a throwaway track in my opinion. I guess the sad truth is that, as much as I hate it, most of AFI's fans now are probably the Hot Topic mall goth types who don't have any problems with 'dark' lyrics that are straight forward, even at the risk of them sounding so literal that it's corny. Well I do have a problem with it, and I would even go as far as saying that I would feel a little bit embarrassed to be listening to some of the lyrics around people. Another problem that I have with the lyrics is Davey's tenancy to recycle certain words or phrases. He says the word 'die', or more specifically 'I die' about twenty times on the album, for instance. He also sings "Wear your best, we'll surely make the cover" during one song, which just reminds me a little too much of the Blaqk Audio song Cities of Night ("We'll shine this time; we'll make headlines"). I realize that that is picky criticism, but for somebody who really pays attention to lyrics, recycling like that grates on me and really kills a songs potential likability. Aside from my criticism, the lyrics are certainly not all bad. They run consistently with the continuing theme of modern love, from the good times to the bad times. Crash Love could be seen in a way as a loosely based concept album. Many of them are dark, such as End Transmission or Torch Song, but there are also some that hold a sort of innocent charm to them, such as Veronica Sawyer Smokes, presumably about a crush Davey developed on Winona Ryder's character in the 80's film 'Heathers.' Fans of the band's more hardcore work will enjoy the track Sacrilege, which embodies the same kind of bratty-sung punk/hardcore pessimism that the band shared with us on albums like 1997's Shut Your Mouth and Open Your eyes. Another thing that slightly bothers me (and I hate to say this because it's so much of why I love the band) is Davey's voice throughout the record. He's just a little bit too whiny and nasally sounding for my liking, and I think that it detracts from feel of the album as a whole. Another noticeable change is the absence of any screaming on Davey's part. I would consider this a welcome change personally, as I don't care for screaming and kind of just tolerated it before, but now with it gone, I realize how much of a dynamic it offered the band before. As it stands now, the lead vocal parts on Crash Love are a little bit mundane and unspectacular, with the exception of some interesting harmonies, such as the one in the bridge of Beautiful Thieves. The vocals lack a dynamic point that was present in their earlier albums. On a positive note, there's plenty of big, cult-like, AFI choruses that I'm sure all the fans of their older work will appreciate. There's also some 'whoas' thrown in there and the STS spirit of Davey has arisen anew with some 'Oh!'s thrown in as well. This isn't necessarily a saving grace musically, but anyone who's followed the band and likes their older albums unconditionally will surely appreciate these factors. Though I have some major problems with the lyrics and lyrical structure on Crash Love, I would still consider the album's lyrics to be more good than bad, and the album certainly provides fans with some new gems in the AFI body of work, such as Torch Song, Beautiful Thieves, End Transmission, Ok, I Feel Better Now, Veronica Sawyer Smokes, and Darling, I Want to Destroy You.

Overall Impression — 8
One final criticism that I will bestow upon the album is that it lacks the intro and ending that we as fans are used to. Torch Song is great, but it's not necessarily a show opener in the way that Miseria Cantare, Strength Through Wounding, or Prelude 12/21 were/are. And It Was Mine is a very solid track as well, with a beautiful chorus to it, but it lacks that epic feel that closing tracks like Morningstar, This Time Imperfect, or even Endlessly, She Said all shared. This criticism is not necessarily that serious, but from the perspective of AFI fans, it's something that we've come to expect from album to album. Though the lyrics have taken a very different feel from before, this is still very clearly the AFI you fell in love with originally. The sense of theatrics, the grandiose, cult-like choruses, and the general feel of this album let you recognize immediately who it is you're listening to. Generally, it's a great album with beautifully constructed music, a romantic feel, and just a couple of lyrical setbacks. But most importantly, it's something that AFI fans of old will feel at home with... despite the cover looking like a custom hood ornament on a Cadillac.

47 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Dakkstar
    I'm not sure how i feel about Crash Love yet. I have had one listen so far. My immediate response is I like Decemberunderground better, but then again I didn't like Decemberunderground until about the third listen. No album by AFI has struck me like Sing The Sorrow. That will album with stay with me forever much like Nirvana's Nevermind and In Utero do. Crash Love seems like a step in a direction. I don't know if it's the right direction. All I know is if they can play the songs live that'll be great. I watched AFI butcher Decemberunderground songs on SNL and usually bands sound pretty decent on there. I miss hearing the misfits influence, the "whoa oh"s and Davey lacks aggression and inspiration in the vocals I think, don't get me wrong, the songs are still very sing along able, but they are just not as memorable. Maybe with a few more listens I'll come to appreciate it more.
    RunawayKaren
    It's an OK CD, I found myself liking the bonus tracks more. And Jade's playing really does shine here. Now if only he played like that before Davey decided he wanted to get in touch with his feminine side, cause every "Oh!" I hear makes me cringe.
    Shackattack
    I Fucking Love This Ablum Just i miss the screams though. Loving the guitar riffs. Jade is definetly the star of the album.
    kooerthnyu
    A.F.I. is my favorite band and to be honest I hate this album. I liked Torch Song which gave me high hopees for this album but afterwards, only a few songs actually left good feelings in my mind. The sound is so far away from the original sound in all the wrong ways. I see nothing wrong with a band changing its sound but this is too poppy and no punk whcih in this bands case is not a positive. The lyrics of the album are severely lacking in terms of intelligence and Danny's vocal work is a mild irritant within the songs. I will say that on a few songs Jade has some sic riffage going on though. Not a total waste of an album, but it's a flop for sure. Only buy if you are a serious A.F.I. fan wanting to collect all the albums or whatever, otherwise it's not entirely worth picking up. For me this band has definitely changed from the great thing that was A Fire Inside of me, to just being afi. It's sad really.
    SeanX3187
    i really wish they'd do some more songs or even an entire album like "Very Proud of Ya" i loved that album and in my opinion, their best. most people when talking about afi bring up sorrow, which was a good record, but i listen to punk, so the earlier hardcore punk afi days were my favorite. venturing more towards rock wouldn't be my choice, but i suppose they're doing it well building a very large fan base (but that's not really what it's about) i'm getting the album later and hope i like it. from the reviews, i probably will.
    thereverendsoup
    Geez. The discussions here make me feel old. I still remember when AFI played punk. And they were actually good at it. Now all the kids are longing for the glory days of "Sing the Sorrow." To be honest, I really haven't been too into much they've done since "Art of Drowning," but whatever they're doing, I'm glad to see they're still around.
    SeanX3187
    thereverendsoup wrote: Geez. The discussions here make me feel old. I still remember when AFI played punk. And they were actually good at it. Now all the kids are longing for the glory days of "Sing the Sorrow." To be honest, I really haven't been too into much they've done since "Art of Drowning," but whatever they're doing, I'm glad to see they're still around.
    that's exactly how i feel.
    caucasian_ninja
    SeanX3187 wrote: i really wish they'd do some more songs or even an entire album like "Very Proud of Ya" i loved that album and in my opinion, their best.
    I mean, that's certainly a valid wish, but I really don't think you could ever actually expect them to go back to that sound, and while you may like it, don't you think it would be digressing musically? I mean "I don't wanna **** you, so **** you..?" The band is in their early thirties now, do you really think they would still be listening to and playing the same music that they did when they were 18-20?
    kamjam7
    great review ninja. i don't see why no one likes decemberunderground. I'm a fan of the older music, and i don't see anything wrong with it, although it's not the best. new album sounds ok, but i absolutely LOVE epic music, so idk how much of a drawback that will be. and no screams? (gasp). that's another let down, but change is good.
    TFK_62
    AFI will always be defined, for me, by Sing The Sorrow. But I also like most of their older stuff, and I really liked Decemberunderground as well. I just bought the new one a few hours ago, and I'm super excited to hear it.
    double_bass25
    thereverendsoup wrote: Geez. The discussions here make me feel old. I still remember when AFI played punk. And they were actually good at it. Now all the kids are longing for the glory days of "Sing the Sorrow." To be honest, I really haven't been too into much they've done since "Art of Drowning," but whatever they're doing, I'm glad to see they're still around.
    Pretty much what I said, and may I say, it is well said.
    somberamarath
    I miss the screams, Davey's voice is amazing but, I love the drive his screaming voice. Personally I believe that his screams always added to the songs in past albums. I also have a nagging problem with the straight forward lyrics. And I must admit, I cringe at some of his word choices, they just seem a bit weak. Overall its a pretty good album but not their best. Of everything they put out since 2000 Sing The Sorrow is still the strongest album to date in my opinion.
    axeslinger0u812
    The bonus songs are awesome, especially the one from the decemberunderground sessions. Why wasn't that ON decemberunderground??? And the one from the sing the sorrow sessions reminds me a lot of art of drowning and black sails. That said, first blush... I like the album. Like I said in the interview thread, I need to go listen to it while driving, but Ive enjoyed it so far. However, the reviewer is dead on in the lyric department. Not that I hate the lyrics on crash love, but in comparison to earlier albums, I am disappointed in the lack of poetic muse... Miss the screams as well. I thought decemberunderground had the best variety of vocals on an afi record yet, and this album, vocally, is a digression. He still sounds great in this style, but the soft to scream vocal style adds more dynamic quality to create that "epic" feel that is associated with prior releases. Still. Good cd so far, for me.
    Emily129
    Great review. But I feel it focused a little too much on the negatives and a little too picky on certain aspects of the record. I enjoyed it, but agree that the lyrics lacked the poetry of Sing the Sorrow (I believe Davey's lyrical peak)
    inferi596
    as dookie:insomniac, decemberunderground:crash love. not a bad follow-up but not as amazing as the original. of course, art of drowning is the best.
    caucasian_ninja
    Let me just revise on what I said in my review about sound quality; I've listened to it from a CD, on a good pair of headphones, and it is AMAZING sound quality. Pristine mixing of all the instrument parts.
    lethaldosage45
    I am listening to DU now... and it just has SO much more to offer than Crash Love. Screams, electronic stuff, and the sound of Crash Love. It feels like the dumbed down for Crash love. But, I do enjoy most of the tracks... just some don't stick like all the others on old albums.
    lpjordy
    I fully agree with what you said about the lyrics. From the first time I heard Medicate, I knew the lyrical quality of this album would be very low. After listening to the whole album, I thought it was garbage because I'm a huge huge fan of AFI from the beginning to Decemberunderground and STS is the best album I've ever heard. Davey does say "die" way too much on this album. I really wish I knew if this was purposeful, if Davey is losing his touch, or if they really did just sell out to the mainstream radio Nickleback listeners who love terrible lyrics and shallow songs.
    HavokStrife
    slc5196 wrote: Im a hardcore AFI fan and highly recommend this album
    AFI's my favorite band and this is possibly the worst CD I've ever heard in my life. I give it a 1/10, cuz Torch Song is pretty good, haven't opened up that powerful since Miseria, but then it just dies. If you actually want to buy a CD today I'd suggest the new Alice In Chains or Dethklok!
    double_bass25
    Hmm... I'll probably buy this album, just cause AFI was one of the first bands I ever listened to and liked, but man. Am I the only one that misses albums like Shut Your Mouth And Open Your Eyes, Black Sails in the Sunset, All Hallow's EP, and The Art of Drowning? I mean, Sing the Sorrow is good and all, but those albums were the AFI I got into.
    TwistedLogic
    caucasian ninja: very nice review. I think you did a nice job of providing your thoughts on the new AFI release and your ability to place in the context of the bands entire body of work is very helpful. Not a big fan of the band, but you did a very nice job. Keep it up.
    Spoony_Bard
    Getting this album today. AFI was one of the first bands I ever listened to. Sing the Sorrow is one of the best records I've ever heard, and Decemberunderground was quite good as well. Good reviews, although the second is pretty damn long.
    ShionusSkyr
    Nice Review! Seems like AFI's going at least a little back to those Sing the Sorrow days...must pick this record up sometime
    archangelseren
    great reviews, especially the second one! ive listened to them since sing the sorrow and its still my favourite after listening to there old work and even decemberunderground (which wasnt that bad in my opinion). I'm enjoying this album at the moment but i dont know long it will last, it definitly sounds better in high quality compared to the myspace ones but what can i say, it seems to lack where afi hold the strongest which that guy already said. As an album its pretty strong and every time i listen to it i start it from the start (although torch song has about 15 seconds of quiet which can get annoying) you get over it and its good. I'm not so sure that medicate was the best choice for the single (i would have preferred beautiful thieves) but thats just because its my favourite off the album.... long enough comment i think
    jameshampshire
    dont know if i should even bother with this. last album was a massive disappointment with songs like miss murder. they just base the songs around 4 easy guitar chords and thats it for the records now. love like winter i did enjoy but the album nah. sing for sorrow is an epic creative album. i love it to date with the first opening track just sounds massive and gives me the chills listening to it. but i downloaded medicate and there's not much i can say about it and i know a lot of other people are dissapointed to.
    limefan913
    Am I the only person who liked decemberunderground? Kill Caustic and Summer Shudder were awesome tracks.
    jameshampshire
    limefan913 wrote: Am I the only person who liked decemberunderground? Kill Caustic and Summer Shudder were awesome tracks.
    im not bagging out the album but like you must like sing for sorrow better. like i said i did like love like winter. but i dont know i was bummed about about the creativity on that album. il give this new one a listen though cause i do like afi
    flxz
    jameshampshire wrote: limefan913 wrote: Am I the only person who liked decemberunderground? Kill Caustic and Summer Shudder were awesome tracks. im not bagging out the album but like you must like sing for sorrow better. like i said i did like love like winter. but i dont know i was bummed about about the creativity on that album. il give this new one a listen though cause i do like afi
    First sentence, 2x like. Second sentence, 3x like. On topic, I'm not that fond of this album, but I was of the last two... This one just misses something extra.
    caucasian_ninja
    jameshampshire wrote: dont know if i should even bother with this. last album was a massive disappointment with songs like miss murder. they just base the songs around 4 easy guitar chords and thats it for the records now. love like winter i did enjoy but the album nah. sing for sorrow is an epic creative album. i love it to date with the first opening track just sounds massive and gives me the chills listening to it. but i downloaded medicate and there's not much i can say about it and i know a lot of other people are dissapointed to.
    You know, I really think you should bother with this album, especially if Sing the Sorrow was your favorite. I can't exactly explain how, but this album does kind of have the same sort of feel as that one, though it definitely has its differences as well. I would still recommend you pick it up though.
    LD_Luke D
    If you tend to place bands who sing about emotions/feelings in the emo category (and you consider that a negative connotation),
    only on UG would emotional music be emo
    Dakkstar
    Hey no prob. It was easily the most impressive review I've read on this site. Good work.
    caucasian_ninja wrote: And thanks for liking my review everyone
    chrisdazzo
    It's not for everyone, but as a bigger fan of Sing the Sorrow vs Decemberunderground, I was very pleased with how the record turned out. The lyrics were lacking at some points, not as intense as in Sing the Sorrow, but overall the musical quality of the album was fantastic. This'll be on repeat for a while. Like Decemberunderground, though, this took a listen or two to fully appreciate.
    hiddenwuss
    Well...i just thought id throw this out there that AFI copied one of their own songs on this album! Notice the frightening resemblance of "Miss Murder" and "I'm Trying Really Hard to Be Here"...
    duncang
    hiddenwuss wrote: Well...i just thought id throw this out there that AFI copied one of their own songs on this album! Notice the frightening resemblance of "Miss Murder" and "I'm Trying Really Hard to Be Here"...
    Not at all, the only similarity is that both have a swung rhythm. Checked.
    slc5196
    first off, i want to say this was the most thorough and well thought out review i have read on UG. and second of all i would like to comment on the continuing quality of AFI. I think unlike many bands they always deliver a solid album. they have come a long way from their punk days, still keeping the catchy choruses, but refining their sound further. One compliment i can only give to a handful of bands is the replay value of AFI. I can go back to songs like, "if god called in sick today" and enjoy it just as much as the first time i heard it. This being said, i had a lot of expectations, but Davy and crew delievered once again. Back to the topic of Crash love, I'd say End transmission is probably my favorite track. Im a hardcore AFI fan and highly recommend this album
    slc5196
    first off, i want to say this was the most thorough and well thought out review i have read on UG. and second of all i would like to comment on the continuing quality of AFI. I think unlike many bands they always deliver a solid album. they have come a long way from their punk days, still keeping the catchy choruses, but refining their sound further. One compliment i can only give to a handful of bands is the replay value of AFI. I can go back to songs like, "if god called in sick today" and enjoy it just as much as the first time i heard it. This being said, i had a lot of expectations, but Davy and crew delievered once again. Back to the topic of Crash love, I'd say End transmission is probably my favorite track. Im a hardcore AFI fan and highly recommend this album.
    SouthernPunk777
    Personally, I have a great distaste for this album. An yes, I do really like AFI and listened to this album 3 times all the way through. It just seems to drag on and, the lyrics seem lacking. I'll give it one more listen although I always thought third time was the charm.. I give it 5 outa 10 because its not utterly horrible but its not in their best interest for Davey to keep saying this is the album to be remembered by.
    LD_Luke D
    If you tend to place bands who sing about emotions/feelings in the emo category (and you consider that a negative connotation),
    hahaha
    dyinghorizon
    All I have to say is that I'm weary about ANYTHING AFI puts out. Ever since Sing the Sorrow they have only put out a handful of decent songs(E.g., Girls not Grey; The Great Disappointment; ...But Home is Nowhere; Now the World (original version); and Synaesthesia). Everything else to me sounds so whiny...so unmanly...so...un-Davey Havok. If he wanted to sound softer with his music, he could've sung like he did in "6 to 8". What happened to the energy of Malleus Maleficarum? Narrative of Soul Against Soul? The Weathered Tome? No Poetic Device? (Hell, every song on Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning) Totalimmortal? The Boy Who Destroyed the World? Your Name Here? The New Patron Saints and Angels? Even Billy Joe Armstrong sounds like he's got more balls than Havok. I'll listen to some free samples, but unless I hear the lyrical content and energy found in Black Sails of the Sunset/The Art of Drowning/AFI/Answer That and Stay Fashionable (or even, Answer That and Stay Fashionable), I'm not holding my breath. If AFI's idea of "Growing Up" is to eschew lyrical content and cry in every song, only to return back to a watered down version of what they were before, then maybe Havok should take the Cobain option and save his already tarnished reputation -- unless he wants to be another Chris Cornell.