AFI was, for many years, one of the most prolific bands around. From 1995 through 2007, they were not only the East Bayâ€™s most recognizable band, they were also its most active one. And so with that heightened activity, AFI went through a very real and progressive metamorphosis. With each record, a new sound was continually being developed. Their sophomore record, Very Proud of Ya, was their debut for Nitro Records, a great representation of the East Bay sound, and their big splash onto the national underground scene.
Very Proud of Ya was a great demonstration of the California skate-punk hardcore style. While it harnessed the streetwise aggression of East Coast hardcore elements, the record also rocked along with the more melodic sensibilities of the California sound. And this musical marriage is evidenced in nearly every chorus on the record. The sixth track, â€œAdvances in Modern Technology,â€ exemplified how naturally AFI connected these sounds. The song moves along with the speed of a hill-bombing skater but also has great choral breaks that at once showcase their ability to layer melodies and to craft great sing-alongs. â€œPerfect Fitâ€ also aptly presented this sound. It rushes forward with great horse-hopping guitars only to break into a harmony-laden chorus that I defy the listener to not want to sing along to. And all tied together with cleverly approachable lyrics like, â€œI won't be sedated, I won't be sedated. Give me a little taste and I know I won't want more. I won't be sedated, stability is overrated. Give me the disorder I adore.â€
The record was also the last in which Davey Havok penned lyrics that had a more direct delivery. In subsequent albums, he certainly upped his poetic and metaphoric style, but Very Proud of Ya showed lyrical content that was both straightforward and thoughtful. The recordâ€™s opening track, â€œHe Who Laughs Last,â€ covered typical punk hardcore fare: friends and betrayal. Yet, Davey wrote about it in a far more crafty way than many of his peers. Consider the opening lines, â€œNo trust can be given freely. It's a valuable commodity, but obviously this is something you've never learned.Â Faith is something that you put in friends, and had I excess morals to lend, I'd let you borrow them, but my trust you haven't earned.â€ Now for sure there was a bit of sophomoric hardcore junk going on there, but there was also ingenuity to those lines. For me, that lyrical ingenuity certainly made AFI more compelling. And it elevated this album as more than just another catchy release from another East Bay punk band.
Very Proud of Ya was, and remains, a great bridge between the Rancid/Pennywise style dominating the East Bay and the Sick of It All/H2O style dominating the East Coast in 1996. The record also marked the end of the decidedly skate punk style that AFI first offered on their debut full length, Answer That and Stay Fashionable. For with future releases, AFI would travel down a distinctly darker, heavier, and more experimental path, to say the least. And that doesnâ€™t take anything away from Very Proud of Ya. It was a great record for not only the time, but also for punk and hardcore at large. It was a bridge between subgenres and certainly helped open up a variety of listeners to a diversity of influences.
That bridge was best demonstrated when I caught AFI open up
for Snapcase, VOD and Sick of It All in New York City in support of Very Proud
of Ya. They totally blew me away in both live presence and musicality. And what
was better, was that amongst the hordes of kids moshing for Sick of It All was
a young Davey Havok, wearing an old Refused longsleeve, moshing it up for SOIA
himself. There was something really genuine about that and itâ€™s stuck with me
since. Similarly, Very Proud of Ya, while a far cry from the AFI of the modern
day, is also entirely genuine. Itâ€™s more than worth checking out and is a great
record in its own right.