AFI are no strangers to reinvention. Over the band’s nearly thirty years together, AFI have grown and evolved their sound countless times. To do anything but evolve would be dull. Still going strong after all this time, this California foursome will release their latest LP Bodies on Friday, June 11th via Rise Records. With this newest iteration, AFI are exploring a vast wealth of musical influences and turning them into one of the most unique and varied offerings in the band’s already exemplary catalog.
As any recent AFI listener would tell you, this band defies genre confinement. Bodies takes that to the next level in its combination of raucous Punk, sultry New Wave, and some wild surprises that may have even the most jaded listeners perking their ears. Vocalist Davey Havok and Guitarist/Producer Jade Puget are an unstoppable songwriting duo who are not afraid to create music for nothing more than a love of the art, while the offerings from Drummer Adam Carson and Bassist Hunter Burgan bring the backbone that keeps the record feeling cohesive. From the slick bass line of “Dulceria,” to the killer drum opening of “Twisted Tongues,” the chugging guitars of “Looking Tragic,” and the intimate vocals of “Back From the Flesh,” each member gets the opportunity to shine.
With that in mind, nothing feels overdone. Puget’s production allows for certain songs to feel lush like “Dulceria.” The only way to describe this absolute stand-out is “sexy.” The driving drumbeat backs one of Havok’s best vocal performances. It’s impossible not to feel cool when listening to the clean, minimal guitar and that sleek bass.
On the other hand though, “Escape from Los Angeles” and “Looking Tragic” are more frenetic and wild tracks with the crashing cymbals and the fuzzy guitar riffs that fans may be more familiar with. Even the more synth-heavy tracks feel just right, particularly “Back From the Flesh.” Another stand-out, “Back From The Flesh” feels like a distinct nod to goth gods Depeche Mode with its minimal verses and fuzzy chorus.
In an interesting move, seven out of 11 tracks were given to listeners leading up to the record’s June 11th release. With almost the entire A-side available, only the album’s back half remained a mystery. However, some of Bodies’ best offerings are on the B-side. The anthemic “No Eyes,” quick-and-dirty “Death of the Party,” and especially the sprawling “Back From the Flesh” are simply unskippable.
What makes Bodies most interesting is its mix of tones. Some may call it a lack of cohesion, but there are underlying lyrical themes that weave these tracks together. Many explore both intimacy and loneliness that are rooted in specific places and moments. It feels both like being privy to moments both secret and universal. As mentioned, AFI continue to evolve creatively, and one of the most obvious evolution comes through in lyrics. The more complex poetry of the band’s middle catalog has morphed into a raw simplicity that still manages to be just as evocative as anything off, say, Sing the Sorrow. Perhaps it is a return to the band’s roots or something that comes with a lifetime of experiences.
AFI would never do the same thing twice, and to compare Bodies to any of the band’s ten (yes, ten) previous albums would be a disservice. The band are committed to keeping things fresh, and yet at the nucleus of their desire for change is an undeniable authenticity. That authenticity is what keeps the band’s intensely dedicated fanbase connected and coming back for more. The Northern California Hardcore values that brought the band together those decades ago have not faded. In fact, AFI are only growing stronger. Bodies will easily sit proudly next to any fan favorite, and like any great record, each spin will reveal a new layer missed the first time around. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Bodies 5 out of 5 stars.