AFI, ‘Crash Love’ (DGC/Interscope)
A first-gen MySpace-fueled success story formed in the Warped Tour crucible, AFI know what their fans want: despair, decay, nonstop tours, online scavenger hunts, message-board worlds, Twitter updates, broken hearts, betrayal, and a beat you can (slam)dance to! In that relentless spirit, Crash Love never pauses to take a breath or slows the tempo or eases back on the hypercompressed everything. The whole history of gloomy pop is on display, but the band’s hardcore background doesn’t allow for the more subtle atmospherics of, say, Bauhaus or even the Cramps.
“Torch Song” boasts a triumphal theme accompanied by church bells, with Jade Puget’s guitar swinging from sweet rock hooks to metal chug and back, as Davey Havok’s proggy vocal tics play off a crowd-sung chant of “Anything!” “Veronica Sawyer Smokes” channels New Order, from the spare yet propulsive backbeat to the sinewy guitar line. Too often, though, Puget’s fine guitar work can’t overcome traces of the band’s oompah pop-punk past or lyrics both illogical (“The broken radio was playing suicide”) and cliché (“I feel nothing”).
Album centerpiece “I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here” echoes their 2006 hit “Miss Murder,” with its Sabbath riffs, melodramatic breakdowns, and gang shouts of “Flash, flash car crash!” More crucially, members of the band’s Despair Faction fan club voice that refrain. AFI may not be breaking new ground, but they never forget who listens hardest.