Friday , May 24 2024
AFI's Sing the Sorrow - and the perils of bargain buys

An Even Newer Tom Sawyer

I’m in Circuit City a couple weekends back, and I’m browsing the new releases display: lots of bands I’ve never heard of, many being sold at a bargain “discovery” price that says C’mon, take a chance on me! Among this batch is a disc that’s even cheaper than the $9.95 releases: AFI’s Sing the Sorrow (DreamWorks Records), which is going for $6.50. I pick the disc up and look it over twice: title’s pretty iffy and the artsy black cover with falling leaves is also pretty suspicious. But I ultimately buy it, figuring why not take a shot? How bad can it be? I think.
Turns out: pretty bad. AFI, I later learn from their website, blends punk, goth and art rock – with a heavy accent on the latter. Soon as I hear the portentous synth sounds, the whispery/shriek background vocals and the rotely rhythmic scrotum-straining vocalist, I realize. I’m listening to Rush! Hear vocalist Davey Havok channeling Geddy Lee, and it’s like you’re stuck on some AOR station from hell. Sure, they add some shrieks to the mix, but the sound and structure of “The Leaving Song Part Two” (you can tell they’re arty because they program Part Two ahead of One on the disc!) remind me of everything I loathed and detested about 70’s prog rock: its absolute refusal to move and fatuous sense of self-importance, its elevation of production sound and “musicianship” over poppishness, its dopey fake poetry.

A few songs have some punkish propulsion: “Bleed Black,” for instance, starts out zippy then slogs into a mucky break that once more gets me gritting my teeth. When the song returns to its original speedo tempo, I’m so peeved I want nothing more to do with it.
Which pretty much characterizes my reaction to the rest of Sing the Sorrow: irritation and a desire to just get it over with. Even a more hard-core sounding cut like “Death of Seasons” falls apart midpoint by slowing down to keyboards and whooshy sound fx so you can pay attention to the really important part. But what d’ya expect from a group that can seriously craft a line like, “I held a fallen star and it wept for me”?

Or “Raise high monolithic statues so fragile”?

Or “Like water flowing into lungs, I’m flowing in these days”?
Or – oh, never mind, just know that there’s plenty more like that on this disc.
I guess every generation needs its pretentious rock gits. But when it comes down to it, I personally prefer my pretension sheathed in more rockin’ or folky garb. Sing the Sorrow, indeed. I want my $6.50 back.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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