Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

AFI: Crash Love

If nothing else, AFI has always been a surprising band. Most of those surprises, though, have been less than pleasant: After making an inauspicious start as a fairly standard mid-’90s punk band, leader Davey Havok led his crew through puzzling, misfired attempts at goth and emo that nonetheless struck a chord with the kids. The most surprising thing about 2006’s Decemberunderground, though, was that it managed to incorporate every style the band had dabbled in since its inception: anthemic punk, icy goth, brooding ballads, and unapologetic pop. With its follow-up, Crash Love, AFI has ditched much of the previous album’s range of textures—Havok and guitarist Jade Puget released an electronic album as Blaqk Audio in 2007, which seems to have purged the digital urge from AFI’s system—in favor of a mostly straightforward, guitar-based album. The limited palette this time around doesn’t do the band any favors: Where the sheer scope and giddy dynamics of Decemberunderground helped cover up some of the group’s weak spots—for instance, Havok’s histrionic flair and bad Marc Almond impression—Crash Love traffics in more of the same utilitarian riffs and bleating anger-slash-melancholy that AFI made its name on. On “Cold Hands,” Havok sneers, “Please cut the love song.” Go ahead and cut the rest of it while you’re at it.

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