Sing the Sorrow (2003)
Pop punk’s Romantic moment. AFI always had songs because of course they did, but by 2003 they also had the self-awareness to recognise that horror themed music for skaters before long equates to the awfully bathetic image of Night of the Living Dead t-shirts worn in skate parks, or a broad day banal pimpled demystification of the horror that Romero and whoever else pursued with an obsessive, enduring conviction and whose works in turn endure as they horrify dumb stupid human beings who are genuinely afraid of the dark. Of course more can be made of this but for now we can split common motivations for watching horror films down the middle- some giggle with joy as gore fx are employed for entertainment’s sake (aware that these are fx, or hoping with fetishistic concentration that said fx are invisible), and others shudder and tremble as right in front of them make-pretend people are made to not exist any more because nothing is sadder and scarier than someone dying, real or not. The horror that looms over this latter group is the kind that inhabits folktales where ‘they never came back’ or ‘that was the last time that’- where narratives have been forged and passed down as excuses for the inevitabilities of this horrible world, not to explain them and overcome them (as in Enlightened thinking), but to live with them- to cope. These are the creatures that steal children in the woods, and who sit quietly in bodies of water waiting to grab ankles, and who sing in the night and take the hands of those who’ll follow them, and who watch you from afar and who watch you sleep. This is more than just catharsis, but there is something in the lack and desire thereof- the murder sequence of a good giallo where closely framed filmic cuts guide the eye to instrument (cause) and violence (effect) vs anything with a trace of ‘folk’ in it. Sing the Sorrow rescues and remystifies horror through this ‘folk’ lens, adhering to expected styles but using them to summon those creatures from the picture books and fairytales of your childhood that have followed you to Now but which linger in your subconscious. This is not simply cosmetic as much as the band desired to package it as a dusty clothbound book rather than a record- it is fully convincing. Of course the same ghosts do not inhabit it that do its individual reference points, for one because it (proudly) dates itself, and for another because it very much wants to welcome itself into your room so that it may wallow the way that Disintegration did or still does. As with Disintegration, a cynic would call it corny and others would, as with a horror film, find a perverse comfort in its terror- it is above all human however much it desires to become ancient and elemental. It is a return to the mimetic and mythical- a rejection of reason. Sing the Sorrow is a reminder that everything is myths and belief systems- ghosts and monsters- and it eternally embodies that hopeless moment where everything becomes literature.