The rollout of singles from the eleventh studio album from AFI was interesting, to say the least. With a trio of dual singles releases beginning in January, and the subsequent ones to follow in February and April, there was plenty of new material for fans to dissect before the full-length album would be fully released this month. Davey Havok and Jade Puget had been extremely busy having released their latest Blaqk Audio project’s album in August of 2020, and they would later turn their focus towards the sessions that would make up the record known as Bodies. In a livestream event in April 2020, Jade Puget mentioned this latest album had been fully completed, but like so many other albums, the release date was being pushed back due to the pandemic. The material that comprised Bodies is a mixture of the sound AFI went for on The Missing Man EP, with a slight throwback to some stylistic choices found on Crash Love and the darker-toned Burials. The best part of AFI’s music is their ability to make songs that immediately sound like something they would create, yet sound unique enough to cover plenty of new ground along the way.
The first song that I heard from this era of AFI was “Twisted Tongues,” as part of their dual-single release with “Escape From Los Angeles,” and the opening track of Bodies is fairly indicative of the sound the band was going for on this record. Drummer, Adam Carson, lays down a great opening beat for the band to rally around on this solid opener. Bassist Hunter Burgan also shines throughout this song, and the rest of the album, that features some of his best bass lines to date. Davey Havok sings on the first verse eerily describing the state of our world, “We watched the world / Turn itself backward / Now, in reverse / You spit out big words / Over a low sun / Undo the undone,” and even though AFI mentioned the pandemic had little impact on the lyrical material, it’s hard to not draw the comparison.
”Far Too Near” ends up being one of the early standout tracks in the early part of the sequencing, and has more of an upbeat feel to both its tempo and tone. The chorus of, “I’d give my heart to you / I’d give my heart to you if I could / Give my heart to you / I’d give my heart to you if I could,” ends up being an endearing statement from Havok as he looks towards the important part of maintaining relationships.
”Dulceria” opens up with a bass line that sounds eerily similar to the classic Bon Jovi smash, “You Give Love A Bad Name.” Comparisons aside, the song ended up being my favorite from the set of songs found on Bodies. The interesting bass line from Burgan unfolds beautifully over Havok’s curious vocals of, “In from the storm, where the norm is perverse / Well-acted porn’s getting worse / I love you more, here on the floor.” Guitarist Jade Puget adds some pretty cool riffs in the background of this excellent single that gets better the more you hear the intricate contributions to the track.
The frenetic beat of “On Your Back” is reminiscent of the material found on Sing the Sorrow, but with the darker-toned lyrical elements found on The Blood Album. Havok nearly raps the verse of, “There is a feeling / More than a touch / Of endless falling though the drop was not enough / But we made history / They’ll see the signs / Reopened on your back to tell them you were mine and seep love,” and his hard to interpret lyrical material remains as mysterious as ever. “Escape From Los Angeles” follows the song with some well-placed synths to bring out a bit of a crossover between Havok’s projects of not only Blaqk Audio, but a bit of Dreamcar too, in one of the better songs found on Bodies.
Unfortunately, some of the songs found on the new album sag a bit in the middle of the sequencing. For example, “Begging For Trouble” ends up being a forgettable track and “Back From the Flesh” is a bit too brooding for its own good. On the latter track, Havok sings hauntingly on the chorus, “In silent prayer, deep belief / In silenced prayer on my knees.” There isn’t too much going on in this song, and doesn’t benefit the overall listening experience in the middle of the record.
”Looking Tragic” luckily brings the mood back a bit towards a saving grace, and has an 80’s new wave feel to it. On the second verse Havok sings, “He spun light into black skyscrapers / She hid weapons beneath her dress / Wait a minute / I may be boring you to death.” The allure and mystery around his lyrics continues to be fodder for longtime fans of AFI to try their best to interpret. Burgan continues to create some standout bass lines on “Death of the Party,” and yet the song never really launches off the way I expected it to.
The record saves itself from crushing itself under its own weight with the vibrant closing duo of “No Eyes” and “Tied To A Tree.” On the first track, the chorus ends up being one of the stronger melodies that Havok/Puget constructed on Bodies and allows for the band to add in their extensive creative energy into the great song. The album closer was mentioned by Puget to be his favorite from the set, and yet the haunting final song leaves a strange taste in the listeners’ mouth as it broods along until fading away into the abyss. The song relies on an cautiously strummed acoustic guitar in the verses, before exploding into heavy electric riffs on the chorus to bring new meaning to each off the harmonies found here.
Overall, Bodies ended up being a mixed bag for me. While I could see the direction AFI were going for on more of the upbeat tracks in this set, the more brooding and darker-toned songs on this record seemed to lose my focus as they unfolded. With so much stellar material found in the band’s discography, Bodies ends up being a forgivable, slight misstep along the way. While the good far outweighs some of the bad found on this album, one can only hope this record will take on new meaning as AFI gets back on the road in support of the record.