Bodies granted a wish I have held onto for 11 years: AFI revisited the pop sound they first explored in 2009’s masterpiece album, Crash Love. While most of their discography is known for dark, powerful rock music, Crash Love and Bodies act as anti-pop albums even while fully embracing that sound. But while Crash Love maneuvered that transition in sound flawlessly, Bodies struggles to make its mark. There are a lot of good ideas on Bodies, but the album flashes past them in an incredibly fast 36 minutes.
Part of what Bodies lacks is letting the band cut loose in the ways we know they can. Although incorporating more dance elements than ever before, the music is more relaxed and reserved than anything the band has ever written (“Dulceria”). This dynamic, however, allows bassist Hunter Burgan and drummer Adam Carson to take center stage to most songs (“Death of the Party”). While guitarist Jade Puget gets less opportunity to show off the fact he is one of the best artists in rock, he truly shines when the chance presents itself (“No Eyes”).
If there is a weakness to Bodies, it may be the lyrics. While vocalist Davey Havok has amassed a legion of fans with his poetic and grim verses over the years, Bodies’ are more vague than usual and lack the flare of presentation that could offset that. Havok, meanwhile, delivers a stellar performance, even if some of his vocal experimentation doesn’t always land (“Dulceria”).
Bodies works on a theme of robust romanticism and the destruction of self from obsessing over lust and beauty. At once hyper sexualized, such as “On Your Back” (“I want to tell you, but I know I’ve said too much / About the history, about the signs / You’ve opened on your thighs, so they may speak your mind upon love”), Bodies finds its footing in the rejection of romance.
“Looking Tragic” has Havok exploring sexual frustration against a gorgeous guitar riff (“This may be boring / Is it less than a total mess? / In a minute this may turn sour, if we last”), while “Death of the Party” explores the loss felt from someone leaving the relationship after the narrator had used them (“Where, oh where, did you last see her? / She was right there soaking in black fur”).
“No Eyes” explores the loss of someone by focusing on her mascara (“Every blush behind the lines, every cooly spoken line / Reminding me that you aren’t mine”) over a frantic punk riff. Closing song “Tied to a Tree” offers the most poetic verse on the album, laid against a near offensive sounding acoustic guitar as Havok reflects on how his obsession with lust and beauty has lead to utter ruin, and he finds himself alone by his own doing (“Where we used to meet / To see how good you look / In my dying light”). Bodies is arguably the biggest risk AFI have taken in a long time. While the experimentation to their sound and style doesn’t always work as well as it should, it’s a welcome endeavor for a band this deep into their storied career. The fact that Bodies somehow sounds utterly foreign and yet distinctly AFI is a testament to the skill of songwriting, even at its weakest.
Photo by Jacob Boll
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and accidentally walked into the middle of six people fighting each other because he was really into his audiobook.