Does the song “Miss Murder” sound familiar? How about “Girl’s Not Grey” or “Silver and Cold”? These are the commercial highlights people remember from the aughts when AFI comes up in conversation; a band that at the time fit neatly into the same box as mainstream emo bands and Three Days Grace-type post grunge acts but had a unique mix of other elements thrown in that distinguished them too; influencing many acts of the decade who followed them. That’s not to take away from the work they’ve done since the 2000’s, however, and their latest LP Bodies reflects AFI’s musical distinction more than ever.
Tracks of the likes of “Twisted Tongues” and “Far Too Near” retain AFI’s gothic flare while refurbishing some definitive sounds from the ‘80s; Davey Havok gives off Tears For Fears and Smiths vibes in the choruses, even if the rest of the track is closer to post punk in the case of “Far Too Near”. “Dulceria” runs closer to the 00’s emo-dance formula that brought AFI to prominence albeit more relaxed; contrasted by the lively and texturally exceptional “On Your Back”. The driving, familiar groove and raucous belts of “Escape From Los Angeles” call back to the band’s punk beginnings in the 90’s, while “Begging for Trouble” takes these ingrained foundations to a more refined, current conclusion.
“Back From The Flesh” is the closest thing to the current active rock sound so far on Bodies, albeit (refreshingly) not anywhere near as sample-heavy as many songs occupying radio and Spotify playlists at the time of this writing. In comparison, “Looking Tragic” manages to capture the 2000’s (think Velvet Revolver’s Libertad album though obviously not as hard-edged) without sounding stuck there, much like “Death Of The Party” which calls back to the early emo side of the aughts. “No Eyes” isn’t quite as vintage and includes a bit of an indie tinge, and the closer “Tied To A Tree” is nicely synced up, even more so than “Back From The Flesh” with today’s sound; rounding up a careful balance of past and present to make for a solid record with an identifiable band behind it.
With Bodies, AFI put themselves in a very smart position- they keep their sound intact and provide enough of a 2000’s time capsule to keep their core fans happy and keep those less familiar reminded of who they are while making a couple of appeals to current sonic sensibilities to rope in more listeners. All the while, their instrumental approach is far more organic than a large swath of bands at the forefront today; a breath of fresh air and a needed reminder that an excess of programming and sampling isn’t necessary to make a record sound good, especially if you’re trying to convey any kind of soul or humanity. This record is a great case for why one of the more unique and influential acts of the 2000’s should be getting more appreciation now, and perhaps with some more crafty maneuvering over the next few years they will.