"While we're really proud of our history and accomplishments we feel our career is really just getting started and feel slightly embarrassed by anything that hints at retrospect. There's plenty of time for that later when we're old. We'd rather move forward...." That was the post by AFI on their official message board in October 2004. Though cryptic, it seemed to denounce or at least dismiss the hits and rarities compilation issued that November by Nitro Records, AFI's label until their 2003 bow for DreamWorks. Unauthorized? Maybe. But AFI is still a solid overview of the band's pre-Sing the Sorrow output, which between 1996 and 2000 included five albums and an EP. Quality was spotty on each release. But the records do trace the transformation of AFI's sound, from the early influence of California hardcore and punk to the crashing chords and richer melodic sense that would coalesce with the hit major-label debut, Sorrow. Working in reverse chronological order, AFI includes the stronger tracks from each album, as well as a few extras to reel in the diehards. "Winter's Tale" is a rousing, U.K.-only pop-punk gem from the Days of the Phoenix EP, there are two tracks from the All Hallows EP, and "Lower It" comes from the vinyl of 1999's Black Sails in the Sunset. "Rolling Balls" and "Who Said You Could Touch Me?" also come from the vinyl pressing of Very Proud of Ya. Even if it is a Christmas season play on AFI's larger popularity, Nitro's collection is a snapshot of the group's development. Its brash sound will also be a surprise to fans of the much more grandiose Sing the Sorrow.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus