Having signed with Heart Skull/Epitaph Records and rejoined with producer Matt Allison (who was there for the first two releases), Alkaline Trio revisits its punk roots with This Addiction, attempting to recapture the glory days.
Were they successful? For the most part.
My Early Days With A3
At one time, Alkaline Trio was one of my absolute favorite bands. They had great songwriting - deep, but not really overly dramatic songs that were pure dirty, drunken slacker love poetry - and this incredible buzz saw sound to their guitars.
We saw them every time they played through Detroit, and bought them drinks one night after a Plea For Peace show at St. Andrew’s. For a chunk of us living in Detroit at the time, these guys were “our” band.
Eventually though, as was the theme in many of their classic songs, we drifted apart.
What happened? Well, they got really popular. But that’s not the reason I stopped liking them - it's how they got so big. They stopped writing songs that we all loved them for and started making a style of music that sold more records; it was music that catered better to 12-year-old girls, who turned out in droves to buy their records and get them booked to stadiums.
Plus, they adopted this god-awful persona with makeup and moreseness that really didn’t fit who they had been. As the band evolved (or simply tried to sell records), their subsequent releases were darker and more melodramatic while missing the edginess, sarcasm and the simple something that made Alkaline Trio's earlier releases so great.
I never faulted them for this. Hell, I even went to see them not too long ago. They played two old songs that I knew, and I left before they were done, but I tried. And it wasn’t for me.
But That's Old News... Here's What's New
When This Addiction opens with the title track, the guitar rips into a riff almost identical to the opening bars of their classic “My Friend Peter.” In fact, instrumentally, much of the album sounds like it could be new lyrics simply dropped on classic tunes. But that’s one of the inherent dangers of having a sound so distinctive; once it gets too distinctive, it blends upon itself. Fortunately, that sound is good enough to never get repetitive.
The themes are standard fare for A3, examining relationships that rarely seem to go right, and when they do, the good moments are fleeting. Again, because they do it so well, it’s never a monotonous theme. It’s like having a friend who tells the same stories, but always adds new entertaining twists; you don’t care if you’ve heard it before, because the story is good and it’s told well.
Some of the lyrics seem a little forced and unimaginative, like on the title track, when Skiba compares love with someone to a heroin addiction, and previous loves to methadone, but for the most part, the lyrical spark seems to be returning to the band’s songwriting. Tracks like “Off the Map,” which opens with the poetic “I needed more wine, you needed more sleep” resurrect the clever phrase turning especially evident in the band’s classic days, and when Skiba sings “when you asked me if I’d stay forever, I guess you meant just for the week” on “Dead On The Floor,” it brings back all of the perfect bittersweet evocations from classic tracks like Goddammit’s gut churning “San Francisco.”
And musically, while the band is still holding on to poppier structures than they’d have used in the earlier days, much of the rawness and that trademark shred are really back in full force. Over and over with songs like “Dine, Dine My Darling” and “Lead Poisoning” (which even features a trumpet) are pure pop punk tunes, but the guitars punch each danceable beat, and the break is full of the built up A3 guitar burn I really dig.
So, at records end, I am left visibly happy over these guys and their bitter songs. This Addiction isn’t a true return, but that would, sadly, end up being tired if they threw out the past several years. What it ends up being is an album that sounds true, real and 10 times better than anything they’ve done in recent years.
Maybe you can’t ever really go home again, but the band has gotten much closer than they’ve been in a while, and I’m hoping they keep making their way back to where they belong.
2. "Dine, Dine My Darling"
3. "Lead Poisoning"
4. "Dead On the Floor"
5. "The American Scream"
6. "Off The Map"
8. "Eating Me Alive"
9. "Piss And Vinegar"
Release Date: February 23, 2010
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