Year 6, Day 13: AFI – DECEMBERUNDERGROUND
- Prelude 12/21
- Kill Caustic
- Miss Murder
- Summer Shudder
- The Interview
- Love Like Winter
- The Missing Frame
- Kiss and Control
- The Killing Lights
- Endlessly, She Said
About the Album
Decemberunderground (stylized as DECEMBERUNDERGROUND) is the seventh studio album from American rock band, AFI. The album was released on June 6th, 2006 though Interscope Records. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album has been certified both Gold and Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Thoughts on the Album
I stand by this statement: everyone has a scene kid within them that is yearning to be freed and unleashed on the earth. That kid who listens to nothing but heavy metal? Yup. That girl you know who swears by country music? Yup, them too. That one person you know who only listens to hardcore rap? You bet your sweet ass they have a scene kid within them. The top-40 pop princess that sits at your lunch table/across from you at work or school? Oh yeah.
That said, if I would’ve had the taste I had in music that I do now, I would’ve told my 2006, junior in high school self, to let the scene kid free. Today’s album falls firmly in that realm of the scene. AFI has been blurring the lines between alternative rock, hardcore punk, and pop punk for almost two decades now. 2006’s DECEMBERUNDERGROUND (you read that right, no spaces there) is arguably the most accessible punk album ever made to date? How can I say that? It debuted at number one and is certified platinum. DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is maintains a hardcore edge while being 100% radio friendly for the most part.
DECEMBERUNDERGROUND follows up on the incredibly successful Sing the Sorrow and builds on it with more cleverness and power. There’s more intricate arrangements, better sound effects and production, as well as an overall incredible sonic landscape. It’s definitely an album that while listening you’ll be transported into the dead of winter despite the album being released during the summer. AFI continues to polish their brand of west coast hardcore punk into something that almost every fan of the band, both old and new, as well as new listeners can pick up and enjoy. That said, while the you can hear their transition from previous releases, there are still tracks on this album that bring that hardcore punch many expect.
This album opens with the soft and gloomy, Prelude 12/21, which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album. It opens rather soft and dainty before the pounding drums enter, building a rising crescendo as it prepares the listener for what is to come. The vocal work on this track from frontman Davey Havok is incredibly on point and is the focus of the track, along with the drum work. This prelude (sorry), leads right into Kill Caustic, arguably the heaviest and loudest track on the album as it channels the band’s hardcore punk roots. Going from something so rhythmic as Prelude 12/21 to something loud, heavy, and in-your-face as Kill Caustic is jarring and unexpected. But then again, nothing is expected anymore except Brandon Manning getting more playing time over Travis Sanheim on the Philadelphia Flyers and the Spanish Inquisition. Kill Caustic just gets right down to business with a frantic, frenzied, and frenetic verse. The catchy chorus makes me think it was pulled right off a pop-punk album of the same decade.
But let’s talk about Miss Murder. She’s a beaut, ain’t she? Gorgeous. But don’t get too close, or, you know. Jokes aside, Miss Murder is an incredibly infectious track. Featured in pretty much EVERY music rhythm video game of the mid-to-late 2000’s, Miss Murder has pretty much everything that previous hit Girl’s Not Grey has and more. Infectious chorus? Check. Gorgeous backing gang vocals? Check. A drum and rhythm section that paces the song? Check. A chorus that you can chant along to? Oh yeah, check. An excellent song, not unlike any AFI song previously released.
Let’s talk about two more tracks before we close this one out. My favorite track from this album has to be Summer Shudder, a more electronic rock punk track (if that’s even possible). A heavily melodic track that focuses less on the guitar (sans an incredibly pre-verse) and more on the drums, bass, and synth. A mid-tempo rocker that features some incredible hooks. Love Like Winter, is a track that builds up before it explodes with an infectious and hook laden pop-punk(esque) chorus. A phenomenal track that focuses again, less about the guitars and more on the synth and rhythm section.
2006 was, I think a pretty good year for albums. AFI‘s DECEMBERUNDERGROUND was one of them. The production is slick and smooth. The songwriting is incredible. The one pretty decent sized downside is that some of the tracks do sound like filler tracks. If you took hardcore punk, goth/emo, and modern alternative electronic elements and mashed them together into one, this is what the product would be. However, one of the key things here is, is that it still maintains AFI‘s sound and style. Many bands fail at transitioning to different styles and sounds, but AFI didn’t with DECEMBERUNDERGROUND. In fact, the succeeded. DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is one of the best albums of the mid-00’s. Let your inner scene kid free and let them roam.