AFI

Crash Love

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Goth-punk firebrands AFI follow up their smash 2006 effort, Decemberunderground, with the propulsive blast of alterna-glam that is 2009's Crash Love. Sticky with epic swaths of melodic rock and just enough swaggering goth-itude to please the emo-tweens, Crash Love is less mannered than its predecessor and reveals a band exploding with a creative power pop and metal spark. Though lead singer Davey Havok's glitter-goth persona is well intact, it seems tempered here with a bit more punkish muscle and '80s pop croon. These songs have madly obsessive hooks along with a sparkling production that never sacrifices the hard rock energy at the core of each song. In that sense, such tracks as "Too Shy to Scream," with its tribal drumbeat homage to Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes," and the swooning romantic anthem "Veronica Sawyer Smokes" come as double ice cream scoops of sugary rock bliss. Think equal parts solo Morrissey and the Raspberries and you are pretty close. Similarly moving is the pyrrhic mid-album rock ballad "Okay, I Feel Better Now," with Havok's cries of "I died for the last lie/And the heartbreak for the first time/I could not take 'til I made you cry." However, AFI are anything but saccharine, and tracks like the epic fist-pumping leadoff single, "Medicate," with its slabs of distorted Jimmy Page-esque lead guitar lines, and the equally blood pressure-raising "I Am Trying Very Hard to Be Here" are both kick-butt rockers and dancefloor-ready rave-ups. Ultimately, AFI have lightened up the band's darkly sexy vibe on Crash Love and delivered a yearning, perfect pop/rock crush of an album.

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