caucasian_ninja, on september 30, 2009 10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 9
Lyrics: 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. // 6
Overall Impression: 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. // 8
UG Team, on september 30, 2009 6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sound: Two years in the making, AFI's latest record Crash Love has been labeled as more of a rock record from the band members themselves. Although a true statement for the most part, calling Crash Love merely a harder-edged rock record doesn't even broach on the best qualities of the material. In contrast to the previous record Decemberunderground, which placed a great deal of focus on creating an ambient mood, Crash Love is chock full of catchy, hummable tracks in a traditional sense most of which could land on the Billboard charts if they were all released as singles. Making an equally big impact is the immaculately polished sound, which this time around was shaped by producers Joe McGrath and Jacknife Lee.
There are inevitable comparisons to bands that pop up while listening to Crash Love, but it never becomes overly distracting. Yes, Too Shy To Scream features a chugging rhythm and guitar line similar to Marilyn Manson's Beautiful People and Veronica Sawyer Smokes channels a poppier version of The Cure, but you come away listening never thinking it was a blatant rip-off. Crash Love certainly hearkens back to a sound more akin to something you'd hear in the 80's or even 90's in some cases, but it's actually a compliment that AFI does not sound exactly like every artist on the scene today.
The opening track Torch Song grabs you immediately with the verse's moody, Perfect Circle-ish guitar sound and the larger-than-life chorus that begs for a sing-along. Big, roaring choruses abound on Crash Love, and with the impressive studio quality, those peak moments bring the material to the next level. AFI wisely chose Medicate as their first single, and it's easy to understand why. Featuring a highly memorable, majestic guitar intro and a feast of shouted heys, it is easily one of the biggest standout tracks on Crash Love.
The band has a few offerings like Sacrilege that don't match the quality of Medicate or Torch Song, but the slow/mundane moments are far and few between. There is a cohesive feel to all of the songs in any case, and AFI strategically placed It Was Mine as the epic closer. Although more sedate in terms of its tempo, It Was Mine is a beautifully constructed number that features an amazing backing vocal line in the final moments. // 9
Lyrics: Emotions rule supreme on Crash Love, but the passionate melodies lend themselves to the themes. A track like Medicate might not be the most interesting among the bunch (Could I? Could I just find a way? I find you every day; And we could alter time), but there is a good deal of passion injected into most of the tracks that brings the lyrical content to life. If you tend to place bands who sing about emotions/feelings in the emo category (and you consider that a negative connotation), however, you'll probably want to steer clear of this particular album. // 8
Overall Impression: AFI has a loyal group of devotees, and with an album like Crash Love those passions are validated in full. Decemberunderground had a somewhat darker feel and was intriguing in its own way, but in terms of memorable, emotionally-driven material that will connect with a vast audience, Crash Love is a standout. From the impressive guitar tones (Torch Song, OK I Feel Better Now) to the instantly recognizable chorus melodies (I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here), the 2-year effort put into Crash Love was a successful venture. // 9
askingforit176, on october 21, 2009 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: At first listen, or even the first few, this album seems really bland generic rock. Soon you find yourself enclosed in the majestic beauty the is Crash Love. Crash Love is unlike anything AFI has ever don't before but the same at the same time. The dark angry lyrics are as plentiful as ever but much more straight forward than weve heard in years from them (think almost Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes) mainly about modern day culture or from what they are saying the lack of. The pulseing riffs and clean melodys of Jade Pugets guitar are there as well as Hunter Burgans elegant bass lines and Adam carsons percise drums. The biggest difference by far is front man Davey Havok. // 7
Lyrics: As I had touched upon earlier the lyrics are as gloomy as ever but stripped down considerably from 2006's Decemberunderground and almost wouldn't be reconized as the same lyricist behind 2003's Sing The Sorrow 2000's Art of Drowning and 1999's Black Sails on the Sunset. Gone are the days of "Chrysanthemums of white", talks of the Amaranth or songs named after diseases. Enter lyrics such as "Flash, Flash, Car Crash, we're no fixtures" and "The Broken Radio Was Playing Suicide". With that being said the lyrics are fitting with the scratched gold album cover with a big flamboyant heart on it. Not all is lost there are a few songs that here are written in the traditional AFI style (Torch Song and Sacrilege).
Davey Havok's vocal performance never reaches the high standered he set himself on Sing The Sorrow but FAR surpasses Decemberunderground's performance, I can't stress the FAR enough.
Alot of Decemberunderground was a cross between a whine, over nasilly and a generic scream, Crash Love's is very powerful sounding no whines, but also no yells or generic screams. // 6
Overall Impression: For the first 4:25 mins. Of the album (Torch Song) you'll almost for get that decemberunderground ever existed and that this may be a b-side from Sing The Sorrow an absolutely stunning song, great opening guitar solo, best song on the album. Beautiful Thieves in my opinion is a decent song but doesn't carry the momentum at all is seems out of place. End Transmission sounds like a newer Days Of The Phoenix. Too Shy To Scream is a poppier number but opens with a good catchy riff. Veronica Sawyer Smokes is the best song the Alkaline Trio never wrote.
Okay, I Feel Better Now wouldn't be misplaced on Green Day's last album but strangely nor would it have been on Sing The Sorrow. It's one of the best on the album. Medicate is the lead single packs a bit of a punch an interesting bridge the sounds more fitting on a 69 Eyes track and a great solo.
I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here opens with a raunchy guitar riff and a great verse. Chorus (backed by members of the Despair Faction) is a tremendous let down, I had mentioned the lyrics before. It seems Mr. Havok was trying very hard to be (lol no pun intended) fitting to the album and completely ruined a great song.
Sacrilege is an instant classic very Punky wouldnt be out of place on The Art Of Drowning and is my opinion the second best song on the album. Darling, I Want to Destroy You, I hated for the longest time. It should of been the album closer. it has a "big" feel to it during the choruses. Cold Hands great song heavyish verses catchy chorus.
It Was Mine not a particularly great song. Bridge could of saved it but the Queenish backing vocals ruin it. A weak, weak album closer from AFI, Probably the weakest... Ever.
The album has a whole is far superior to decemberunderground but as a band with such a strong past it can't hold a candle at anything of their's from 1997-2003. Simple as that. Production was great (as expected from a major label band) but not over produced. If it were lost I would deffently buy it again. Like I said its a very solid album some major downs but in all great music.
Torch SongEnd TransmissionVeronica Sawyer SmokesMedicateSacrilegeCold Hands // 9
Gallifrey337, on september 20, 2011 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: After the more experimental December underground, AFI have decided to go for a straight out rock record, after main writer Jade Puget had been writing for an electronic side project, he said it felt good to just write some rock. The sound is very much that, at times punk-y (I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here), at times more Alt-Rock (End Transmission) and at times pure beauty (Okay, I Feel Better Now). Although the album can feel a bit monotonous, there is enough variation to appreciate each of the songs and it feels a lot more complete than December underground. // 8
Lyrics: As always, AFI's lyrics are top notch. Singer Davey Havok has penned some beautiful lyrics in the past, even back in their hardcore punk days. Although lead single 'Medicate' has lyrics comparable to a general pop song, which may have turned fans off, this album is no short of their well-known lyrics.
Lyrically, the songs that stand out are Torch Song, Okay I Feel Better Now, Sacrilege and It Was Mine. Torch Song and Okay, I Feel Better Now pull out words of deep devotion (I'd tear out my eyes for you my dear) to self denial famous in earlier works like "This Time Imperfect" (There is nothing to me).
Sacrilege is one of the more aggressive songs on the album, attacking one of Havok's greatest hates, organized religion. I myself am an atheist, so I love this song, but rather than metaphorically attacking it (like in previous songs The Prayer Position and The Great Disappointment), Sacrilege just digs straight into it, and is one of the songs on this album you don't need to go far to comprehend. It Was Mine is something different. Many songs get acclaimed for great lyrics, simply because you have no idea what they mean. This song is like that, but myself, and many of those on song meanings.com, have noticed a connection between this, and one of my favorite books ever, George Orwell's 1984. This is obviously a song referencing the concept of Crash Love, a sort of Bonnie and Clyde story, of two rebels in love. This tells the story of their failure and death, and musically, has one of the greatest choruses AFI have ever pulled off, and is a perfect finishing track // 9
Overall Impression: Overall, this is a great improvement from December underground, but does not even touch Sing The Sorrow. The concept of it is good, the lyrics metaphorical, and contains what is now my second favorite song of all time, Okay, I Feel Better Now. But it does continue their pattern of changing with each release, gradually getting more pop-rock-ish, which does beg the question of what will their next release be like, which is hopefully due late 2012. // 8