It's no secret that AFI's Davey Havok and Jade Puget have an affinity for electronic music, as evidenced by Puget's programming credits on the last two AFI discs. With CexCells the duo takes its synthesizer obsession to the next level, though, with results that range from sublime to serviceable.
The opener, "Stiff Kittens," features a looped guitar line that sounds lifted from Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and juxtaposes it with sing-along chanting that's a signature element of the pair's other act. In other words, it's an example of two seemingly opposite worlds coming together in a startlingly cohesive way. Similarly, the anthemic chorus and Havok's soaring pipes on "Snuff on Digital" wouldn't sound out of place on an AFI disc. It's another testament to Blaqk Audio's promise, despite the fact that the first minute of the song gets a little too close to house music territory.
The missteps occur when Blaqk Audio loses sight of its identity and tries too hard to emulate inimitable acts like Aphex Twin. While Puget's programming skills are impressive for a dude who's played guitar in a rock band for the past decade, the simplistic sequencing on "On a Friday" and "Where Would You Like Them Left?" ultimately sounds amateurish. However, despite the album's occasional shortcomings, it's refreshing to see the fellas in AFI paying homage to an era of music that's clearly influenced them without a hint of pretension or posturing. Hopefully next time around they'll also have the technical ability to fully realize this artistic vision.
--By Jonah Bayer