AFI ought to suck. Really, how does "kind of punk, kind of emo, kind of goth," sound to you? Shitty, right? What about lyrics such as "We start to bleed/And we dance in misery/All lost in the arms of our misery." No thanks. How about an occasional straight-out-of-butt-rock wailing guitar solo? Have you run away yet?
Well, don't. AFI somehow manages to wrap together goth pretentiousness with emo caterwauling in a tasty little anthemic shell and pull it off sweetly. The band's major-label debut, Sing the Sorrow, mixes group-shout chorus and murky atmosphere to create a dark, creepy album without becoming painfully melodramatic (assuming you don't parse the lyrics). Producer Butch Vig also keeps the songs clear and unencumbered, allowing the different elements to complement, not obscure, each other.
AFI, which used to be more of an Offspring-style "punk" band, has benefited from the addition of guitarist/songwriter Jade Puget, who's helped singer Davey Havok embrace his darker tendencies. They still wear their influences on their sleeves, but now it's a unique mix of influences, which distinguishes AFI from its rivals. Puget also contributes the thrashin' guitar solos, which, butt-rock signifiers aside, actually kick a respectable amount of ass. One suspects, in this world where the mullet is making a comeback, anything is possible.