I would say you’re right about that. As much as we love them, AFI was never a big or important band in the general scheme of things, nor a household name, not even with DU (at least not nearly as much as many other bands were at that time). Before '03, they were a very underground band, the type of which doesn’t really exist anymore because everyone’s band has a social media account now and anyone can find them, even if they’re playing some obscure or experimental genre. I’ve always believed that AFI was always just way too avant-garde and overall just too different to gather a huge fanbase or be popular outside of the few people who were deeply involved with them and their music (i.e. people like us haha). And honestly, I think they wanted it that way. At least until DU…there was always a recurring theme of “us versus them”, the people who don’t belong anywhere, lonely and neglected people, in AFI’s music really as early as '97 (Keeping Out of Direct Sunlight) and was perpetuated by the band all the way through Sing the Sorrow.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest US, and in 2003 I knew exactly 2 people who were aware of this band’s existence. One was a girl I had seen at my school wearing one of their shirts, and the other was my friend’s older brother who had gotten me into AFI in the first place a few years prior. Now, maybe it’s because of the area I lived in, but AFI weren’t even all that well-known until Miss Murder, and then they were, at best, a one-hit wonder to the majority of people who may have heard of them. Even with Sing the Sorrow they were still pretty unknown to the general public. I believe there’s an interview online somewhere in which the band actually confirms this. I think it was Davey who said something like even though Sing the Sorrow was their top selling album, it’s not like random people were recognizing them on the street, but that did happen after DU when people recognized him from the Miss Murder video.
Back to the topic of this thread - I was aware when this album came out. I didn’t like it in 2009 and I don’t like it now. It’s just not anywhere near the type of music I would ever listen to by choice, and the only reason I gave it a chance was because of whose name was on the cover. But I really, really don’t like this album. Mainly for the same reason Pablo mentioned in one of his earlier posts about Davey’s lyrics being in a sharp decline since DU. I think I listened to it a total of three times and each time it just annoyed me more and more. Some lyrics are honestly so cliche and/or so over-the-top melodramatic I have a hard time not rolling my eyes at them. The only one good lyric I can think of from that album is “we’re temporary anyway”. Sounds like Davey’s earlier lyrics. And not only are most of the lyrics overly simplistic and objectively just not very good compared to anything he’d written in the past, I really can’t relate to the content in general; seriously, CL is, as far as I can tell, a collection of songs about running around Hollywood with a lover and living a sort of tarnished celebrity lifestyle but being too blinded by fame to realize it.
As for melodies, I can’t even recall like 2/3 of the songs on that album, not even the main hooks. CL’s only saving grace in my eyes (ears?) - if there even is one - is Jade’s guitar work. The first 30 seconds of Torch Song is pretty sick, but then just immediately does a complete nosedive. And that’s how most of the songs on the album sound to me: promising at first, but ending in utter disappointment. I’m glad they put 100 Words on the bonus disc. Beautiful song. Where We Used to Play was interesting and kind of clever, in my opinion, and sort of unexpected.
I believe most people didn’t know about that album largely because the majority of the people who got into them in '06 did so because of DU’s appeal to the “emo” scene, which by '09 had been all but abandoned. That and the band itself was headed in a much more contemporary arena rock type of direction. I sort of lost interest in them for a while in '07 because I hadn’t exactly been a huge fan of DU, and I was in college then and getting into a lot of older European metal I just fell completely in love with. Heard they were putting out CL in '09, listened to it a few times, hated it, then rediscovered their old shit (mainly Black Sails - Sing the Sorrow) in 2012 and realized how much I still adore those albums and still do to this day.