AFI - Bodies (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Bodies (2021)

rise records

If you haven't accepted by now that AFI just aren't that band of old, then I don't know what to tell you. Granted, I'm a bit of a hypocrite here as more often than not, you'll hear me saying I want something more along the lines of Sing the Sorrow. That said, you just gotta respect Davey Havok and the guys for sticking to their guns, evolving and making the music they feel to make. However, as artistic and wandering as they've gotten over the last few years, even after the Blood record, it feels like they still haven't struck a balance or nailed down properly where they want to go. And sadly, it's reflected in Bodies.

Now, I don't mind the deviations but your sound should be clearly defined. AFI just doesn't do that on an album that has some really good songs, but it just feels all over the place. There's always a sense of urgency to their music, even in their poppier side, but for some reason, this new outing drags and apart from lacking creative direction, there's no impetus.

Off the bat, "Twisted Tongues" brings this to light, which sucks as AFI usually open with bangers. The same holds true for tracks like "Dulcería" which, while technically solid, just doesn't come together as a whole. "Looking Tragic" is another example of this, where despite the amazing bass work, shimmery sonic signature and Davey wanting to go pop as fuck, it feels like AFI aren't hitting next gear. Or they're scared and held back -- by what... I don't know. It's not previous work, but it feels restrained and inconsistent. Seriously, if you're gonna go there, then go!

It's why I think "On Your Back" works with its Cure/Morrissey vibe, as it has an idea of the destination. I don't mind the record being diverse -- soul, funk etc. -- but to guess mid-song what's happening or what's the journey about, yeah, that throws me off. And it happens with way too many other songs. That's not to say I don't appreciate the synth-80s spine of "Escape From Los Angeles" as well, or the Tiger Army-esque "Begging For Trouble," but with songs like "Far Too Near," AFI doesn't know how melodic to be, how hooky to be or where to drive the listener with the chorus. In that sense, most of the album feels incomplete to me, and like a bunch of B-sides or rarities thrown together in a compilation rather than telling a coherent narrative.

It doesn't help that the lyrics aren't as profound as older albums as well, per "Death of the Party" which has a weird reference to 'my sister being my daughter' that creeped me out. Mind you, the record being short and punchy at under 37 minutes is something I think can make it more palatable as it'll feel experimental. Still, Davey should keep that haphazard spray painting musical style for side projects and forget about middling it -- just make something that feels like an album. It happened when Touche Amore, Title Fight or Pianos Become the Teeth diverted off their beaten path, and it's what Deafheaven seems to be doing a la Ceremony now. Love it or hate it, at least we'll know what's up.

Ultimately, it feels like too much is crammed in and AFI can't tell if they want to go pop, goth, retro or symphonic. And with something that schizophrenic, it undercuts a lot of what could have been diamonds in the rough.