Sunday, 25 December 2016

MUSIC : SING THE SORROW BY AFI


AFI are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. This obviously is my personal opinion but I would challenge you to listen to their back catalogue; I don’t believe that any true music fan could not find at least a dozen songs that they not only like, but love. How many bands can you honestly say that about? Sing the Sorrow is I believe, the album that elevated the band to this level.

Sing the Sorrow was their first release on a major label. While this may not sound like a big deal to those unfamiliar with the band or the late 90s/early 00s punk scene, the sad reality is that a massive portion of AFI’s fan base at the time saw their signing to Dream Works as a betrayal and used it as an excuse to write the album off entirely. While this has never been an attitude that I have agreed with, I can (to some extent) understand it in this case. When a band have such a passionate group of fans in the punk scene and such a distinctive and dark sound (see Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning for best examples of pre-major label AFI), it would be easy to assume that signing to a major label would mean that this sound that you loved was about to be diluted and Disneyfied to make it appeal to a wider market. However, one playing of this record from cover to cover should be enough to smash this opinion. No, it’s not Black Sails part 2 but everything that was predominantly loved about early AFI is still there, just in a new beautifully refined and polished gothic package. Also, if you listen to these three albums (Black Sails, Art of Drowning and Sing the Sorrow) back to back, are you really going to tell me that this doesn’t feel like natural progression?

All that being said, my first impression of this album was not good. I was a huge fan of their earlier stuff, All Hallows and Art of Drowning in particular, so I was over the moon when I first got to hear their new single Girl’s Not Grey. I was more than a little deflated when the video came on and I was faced with the new-look AFI playing what I thought of at the time as soft rock in a sea of bright colours. I turned it off after the first verse, a huge mistake as if I had just listened on my opinion would have been vastly different. Despite this, there was no way I was not going to buy the new AFI record. When I got home and put the record on, all of my worries were immediately blown out of the water.

AFI have always had good intro tracks and Miseria Cantare is no exception. When it first started, I immediately drew the comparison to Initiation (intro song on The Art of Drowning) but it soon became clear that this was a very different beast. Davey’s voice had matured beautifully and the whole intro had a much grander, epic feel to it. This was a perfect tone setter for the album. The old AFI that you loved, just bigger, more mature and much more theatrical. The Leaving Song Pt. II follows this formula perfectly and is still one of my favourite songs of all time. Dancing Through Sunday, Death of Seasons and Paper Airplanes brought the speed of the earlier records back into the mix and Girl’s Not Grey is an all-time classic despite my first impression.

The problem I think for some older fans, is that this is not a punk record. What it is, is a great punk band being given the opportunity (and the budget) to step up as musicians, harness every ounce of creativity in their selves and make something truly great. Sing the Sorrow doesn’t fit neatly into a box, but that isn’t a problem.

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Author : Peter Coates
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