1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 353

The Art of Drowning, by AFI
Suggested by Rob Wagner

My first question… What does AFI stand for?

Apparently, and currently, it stands for A Fire Inside. According to the band’s history, it has stood for many things since their inception, most notably Asking For It and Anthems For Insubordinates. As far as punk band names go – for make no mistake, AFI are as punk as you can realistically expect – Anthems For Insubordinates is a fine choice. A Fire Inside? Fair, I suppose, but I’m not feeling it. And the less said about Asking For It, the better.

Surely a sterling group such as ourselves, with boundless wit and consummate intellect, can come up with something sharper, weirder, funnier and more appropriate? I look forward to seeing your suggestions in the comments, but for now, here’s a handful from me…

AFI: Apricots For Indonesia. A charity drive to deliver fruit to those that most need it: Indonesians.

AFI: Affable Funk Infusion. An eleven-piece funk-swing-loungecore act from Bideford.

AFI: Anal Finger Insertion. A bi-monthly newsletter for the modern proctologist.

AFI: Acronyms For Idiots. Presented without commentary.

Formed in the early Nineties, AFI are a Californian hardcore punk band with ten albums under their belt. Allegedly, their thirty-year careen has seen them wearing many a different punk-styled hat, as they merrily prance between hardcore punk, post hardcore, horror punk, emo gothic and alternative rock and more.

For their fifth album, The Art of Drowning, the band are in a horror punk mood. It’s a melodic punk, I suppose, at least insofar as punk can be melodic, and over the forty-eight minutes of blasting, thrashing, clanging punk excess we do see some nuanced shifts in tone and timbre. It’s a strong sound, a shouty sound, backed by chanted group-shout choruses and sandblasting guitars and drums. It has merit, definitely: there’s nowt like well-channelled vitriol to get the blood pumping.

The album starts strongly, with the infectious joy of The Lost Souls. It crams a great deal into it’s sub-three-minute run time, but the overall takeaway is the rather euphoric chorus. Ever and a Day slows things a little, presenting as a punk ballad of sorts, and Sacrifice Theory, my early standout, is a raucous bouncing effort with hints of Misfits, albeit a smiley Misfits with Glen Danzig wearing a cardigan. Other exiting offerings include the funk-bass-driven Of Greetings and Goodbyes, the unsettling and building 6 to 8, and the perfectly formed The Days of the Phoenix, which is the band’s only single from the album.

There really isn’t a downside here. It’s an accomplished punk record, well worth your time if you’re warm to the form. I appreciate its skill, and its drive, and its passion, but at the heart it’s still a lump hammer when I only need a teaspoon to breach my morning egg. I can take intense, and I can take hardcore, and I can take doom-laden and emotive and powerful and raw and raucous… but I seem to draw the line at energetic. It’s full throttle, take no prisoners, to the hilt, while my old bones need modulation, pit stops and isotonic sports drinks to keep my chemicals level.

The Art of Drowning gets a worthy 6/10. It’s punk to the core: breathless, smashmouth, and utterly exhausting.

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