Do Davey Havok and Jade Puget ever take a rest? After AFI released an EP called The Missing Man at the tail end of 2018, it could be forgiven if they would like to kick their shoes up for a bit and let their fans indulge in the new sounds. However, had they taken a break, we wouldn’t have received such a crowd-pleasing, 80’s new wave effort in Blaqk Audio’s fourth full-length LP, Only Things We Love. Filled with rich homages to 80’s synth staples such as Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and Erasure, Blaqk Audio can come to terms with the direction they decided to navigate on this record.
Kicking off the set with “Infinite Skin” reminded me something that could’ve easily fit on a Tears For Fears record, with the exception of the darker lyrical content that we have grown accustomed to from Havok. Davey paints a picture of despair when he sings in the opening verse, “Blood on the corner/Love on a dead end street/You heard them warn her/When you first heard of me/You stopped at nothing/Shots rang rang in the night/I’d stopped a little short, a little short of something right.” The music surrounding these words are brighter than you would expect and it turns out to be a solid choice of an album opener.
The first single, “The Viles” cranks up the electronica elements with heavier synths, programmed drums, and several exciting beats found throughout the blazing track. The call and response vocals in the second verse by Havok are a unique way of presenting the lyrical content. It’s an approach that I can’t remember Blaqk Audio trying in their earlier efforts, but it made for an electric moment on this record.
While “Unstained” and “Muscle and Matter” both display the emotions of falling in love, the latter track tells more of a story in its delivery. Havok continues the unfolding of the tale in the second verse when he sings, “There was a boy/Next door was a girl/Then there was us/Between their world/Conspiring with cats/Collecting old bones/To fashion together a child of our own/To lead us home.” The storytelling aspect of this song makes it more memorable and engaging in the collection of songs in this set and helps paint a clearer picture of the path and vision Havok and Puget have for their project.
“Caroline in the Clip” could have easily been re-structured as an AFI song had it replaced the bright synths with guitar and bass lines. The song flows in a much similar manner as AFI fans have come to expect, and wouldn’t surprise me if it was initially floated as a full band track rather than a Blaqk Audio song.
“Summer’s Out of Sight” is also the closest that Blaqk Audio will get to writing a feel-good anthem destined for Top-40 dominance. With its delicate keyboards and pop structured verses gradually building up to a sing-a-long chorus, it has the legs of a track that could hang around long enough for the days when we crank up the volume with our windows down in the care-free Summer.
These brighter vibes of the former track make way quickly for a more traditionally darker-toned electronica song in “Ok, Alex,” that finds Blaqk Audio brooding in the shadows of the underground club scene. “Enemies Forever” brings the set of songs into a more precise focus by revisiting some of the vibes put out in the earlier tracks on the LP.
“Dark Arcades” revisits a setting of a couple of kids looking for their place in a town where they don’t seem to be fitting in. Havok sings confidently on the chorus, “They stopped the parade/Right in our stride/The music died/They unplugged the games/Now we must play/In dark arcades.” As far as memorable songs go, this one didn’t hit the mark as much as the closing duo of “Dark Times At the Berlin Wall” and “Matrimony and Dust” did for me. The aforementioned album closers instead bask in their glory of being precisely what Blaqk Audio have perfected in just four short albums’ time: energetic and thoughtful electronica.
While I didn’t feel all the songs in this set play off of each other as cohesively as the other albums in their discography, there are still several redeeming moments to be found on Only Things We Love. Perhaps the rapid creative flow of ideas may have had Havok and Puget pouring out more material than they could absorb at one time, and thus delivered a record that doesn’t consistently keep its intended focus. However, with several standout tracks thrown into the mix, Blaqk Audio have given their fans more than enough reasons to stick around for what they will come up with next.