I must admit that I am a sucker for this band. I think they're some of the best songwriters around (especially when you're in the mood for bitter, drunken breakup songs, or bitterness in general), and their buzzsaw guitars are distinctive and memorable. I'm always looking out for their latest release.
Alkaline Trio is constantly recording, and they're always appearing on compilations and split 7" records, so it gets hard for even the avid fan to keep up with everything they've released. Five years ago, the band put out a self-titled album, that compiled all those tracks from compilations, EPs and B-sides, and it was a treasure trove of great music (including "Cooking Wine", which remains my favorite A3 tune). Their latest release, Remains picks up where the self-titled album left off, compiling all of the odd tracks that have appeared over the past few years.
If you're an A3 fan, you already have some of this at least, if not close to all. Even so, it's nice to have it all in one place. Standout tracks include "Warbrain", which was one of the best tracks on Fat Wreck Chords' Rock Against Bush Volume I compilation, a killer cover of Berlin's "Metro" from a Vagrant Records compilation, and a cover of Hot Water Music's "Rooftops" from a split single the Trio did with those guys.
As usual with Alkaline Trio, guitarist Matt Skiba sings most of the songs, with bassist Derek Grant supplying vocals on a few. Grant's best track on the album is "My Standard Break From Life", which is about doing just that, taking a break and dropping out when things get too heavy. The lyrics are great, and the line "And when you're only 23 it's not attractive to complain about your sore back" is simply stellar and exemplary of the great single lines that these guys combine to make great songs.
The disc closes with three unreleased live tracks from a 2006 concert in L.A., including an acoustic version of "My Standard Break From Life", and album includes a DVD with all of the band's videos from their last three albums, and plenty of backstage footage. It's extras like this that are a great way to increase sales over downloads, and is an extra that should be part of any A3 fan's collection.
Whether you're a longtime Alkaline Trio fan or this is the first you've heard of these three guys from Chicago, Remains is an album you'll want to get your hands on. If this is your first exposure, it will most likely lead you to collect as much as you can by them, but at least with a compilation like this, you won't need to bust your bank account finding all of their 7" records. You'll want to, but at least you won't have to.