I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about AFI, so when I was given “Crash Love,” the band’s eighth studio album, to review, I did a bit of digging. AFI front man Davey Havok, in an interview with Australian webzine Bombshell, lacks all humility when saying that he’s “never been more proud of an AFI record,” and “this is the album we will be remembered by.” Looking at the track listing, however, I have to wonder how much of Havok’s hyperbole comes close to the truth. With song titles like, “Too Shy to Scream,” “I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here,” and “Darling, I Want to Destroy You,” first impressions, rather than giving off a timeless quality, seem to indicate an angst-driven wail-fest, the likes of which are usually loved by surly and rebellious high schoolers.
Listening to the album, that impression certainly seems to hold true. The musicianship throughout is far from being bad, but not much stands out, and vocally, Havok positively whines his way through some tracks, particularly in the aforementioned tracks. Lyrically, the album is characterized by overwrought emotionality and copious amounts of melodrama. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in an excerpt from the album’s first single, “Medicate”: “You were never mine, so you were perfect… Does it sting? I feel nothing at all,” sings Havok. Many of the songs contain similar bits of cliché, recalling perfectly the highs and lows of young love and first heartbreak, and it is perhaps here that the appeal of AFI’s music lies. They cover this narrow range of human emotion so thoroughly and in such a tired and trite manner that one almost cannot help but relate on some level.
In addition, many of the tracks on the album seem to incorporate a different vocal effect, as if, when in the studio, the band said, “Let’s see how it sounds when we use this or that tool.” It isn’t always detrimental to the music, but on tracks like “Sacrilege,” the habit only manages to make the song cringe-worthy and unpleasant to listen to.
Despite these flaws, “Crash Love” isn’t entirely a bust. “Beautiful Thieves,” for instance, gets off to a slow and quiet start, but builds to a strong chorus. It’s a surprisingly fun song in spite of its hokey lyrics. The same case can be made for “Cold Hands,” the album’s penultimate track, which aside from the phrase “fey voice” popping up once or twice, manages to almost entirely avoid the melodramatic lyrical pitfalls of the rest of the work.
Unfortunately, two tracks out of twelve cannot save “Crash Love.” All too often, tracks blend together, becoming bland and forgettable, and thus creating a disappointing listening experience. Perhaps if I were a few years younger, I’d be able to appreciate the album more fully, but having left high school far behind, I find I cannot.