Album Review: Alkaline Trio – “This Addiction”

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alkaline-trio-this-addiction1**The Album Reviews published on Dying Scene are written and submitted by regular users of the site.  These users are not professional music critics nor are they paid for what they write.  If you disagree with an album’s rating, feel free to voice your opinion and give it your own rating in the comments.  If you’d like to submit your own review do it here.

NOTE: This review comes from the folks at Assault.

From 1998 to 2004, Alkaline Trio was the best pop-punk band in the world. This is a fact. They did only one thing – springy, melodic songs with rubbery bass-lines, lots of chunky palm-muted riffs, and dark, soul-searching lyrics – but they did it awesomely. And then they started to do other things (play around with keyboards and synthesizers, let the drummer write songs, get married and become happy with their personal lives) and, suddenly, everything changed. They were still a good band, but Crimson (2005) and Agony & Irony (2008) are nobody’s favorite Alkaline Trio albums. They’re melodic and musically accomplished in ways that displayed “growth” and “maturity,” but they also felt somewhat forced lyrically, with singer/guitarist Matt Skiba relying increasingly on cliched and clumsy metaphors as his songwriting got less personal. The dudes (bassist/singer Dan Andriano and drummer Derek Grant, plus Skiba) scattered across the country and started doing aging rocker stuff like “surfing” and “having kids.” But about a year ago, everything started to change again: the guys started hanging out in Chicago more, they talked about “returning to their roots,” Skiba got divorced. All of this could mean only thing: COMEBACK! So, the first question: Is This Addiction a return to their glory days? Does it accomplish very much with, musically, very little? Is it superficially evil for fun with genuinely heavy emotional content for serious? Can it explode a unicorn’s boner in a great blast of pink stars and fairy dust?

Short answer: No, yes, sort of, and maybe.

Long answer: This Addiction doesn’t sound like Goddamnit, Alkaline Trio’s much-ballyhooed, now classic first full-length. And that’s going to disappoint some people, because some people are always disappointed that the band evolved from being a bunch of drunk-ass nineteen year-olds. And some people, like me, will never be entirely happy without Glenn Porter in the line-up; Derek Grant has always struck me as a weird fit for the Trio, and a lot of folks, myself included, hold him almost entirely responsible for trying to push the band in artistic directions they weren’t quite skilled enough to master. The Trio that most of us first fell in love with is never coming back, but that’s been true for years – we should all be used to it by now. Matt Skiba is never going to describe our emotions with profane, pin-point accuracy the way he did on “Radio,” and Dan Andriano will never be sad again, apparently. But This Addiction is a sharp, punchy addition to the band’s catalog. They don’t try anything they haven’t already mastered, but it’s an absolute joy to hear them doing these things that they are very, very good at.

The album kicks off with three fast, hard-charging tracks that all sound like they should have been b-sides. I say this is as a compliment; over the last couple years, all the best Trio songs have been ones that didn’t actually make it on to their records. “This Addiction” begins the record on an extremely high note – racing tempos, a bright melody, uncomplicated lyrics that equate love with, um, addiction in a way that’s not necessarily novel but still brutally effective. And then Dan Andriano gives the best vocal performance of the entire disc on “Dine, Dine My Darling,” daring to make a Misfits joke on a song that celebrates (once again) domestic bliss. “Lead Poisoning” features Skiba’s trademark “dun…dun-nun-nuh” riffing, but it sounds good, like hanging out with an old friend. Plus, a simple, cool trumpet solo sets the track apart from the roughly twenty-five others almost exactly like it in the band’s catalog. Things take a bad turn after that, though – “Dead On The Floor” cannibalizes both “Trouble Breathing” and “San Francisco” (from Goddamnit) and stops the album’s momentum in a tired and unforgivable fashion.

It gets somewhat hit-or-miss after that. “The American Scream,” the token political track, isn’t bad, but its central metaphor is a little corny. “Draculina,” “Eating Me Alive,” and “Piss & Vinegar” are a little too mid-tempo and interchangeable to run in a row, and they bog down the middle of the record. But This Addiction finishes stronger than any Trio record in recent memory: “Dorothy” blasts out of the speakers in an explosion of double-time drumming and eerie David Lynch references, by far the most exciting song Skiba’s written in six years. And “Fine,” Andriano’s gentle closer, is a tearjerker that builds to epic status without over-reaching. Maybe the songs in the middle only feel like filler because they’re book-ended by such powerful material; in any event, I ain’t complaining. This is definitely the best Trio record since Good Mourning, and it might end up ranking along with Maybe I’ll Catch Fire and From Here To Infirmary when all is said and done.

Let’s face it – these guys are getting older, and they can’t do this forever. But This Addiction is an excellent, full-bodied reminder of why we started loving them in the first place, and if they never made another record, their legacy would be secure. This is the way you grow up – not with intricate piano parts or relentless overdubs, but by knowing who you are and what you do, and then doing it the best you know how. I’m glad Alkaline Trio are doing their one thing again, and doing it perfectly.



One Comment

  1. UhFuckUhYouUh5/7/2011 7:23 AM | Permalink

    “but Crimson (2005) and Agony & Irony (2008) are nobody’s favorite Alkaline Trio albums.”

    What? Those are definitely SOMEBODY’s favorite Alkaline Trio albums. In fat, I think “Agony & Irony” comes in right behind “Goddamnit”. It’s a great album, and gets shit on way too much.
    In fact, the album I’m always baffled by when people say it’s their favorite is “From Here To Infirmary”. I don’t get it.
    “Crimson” is definitely their worst though.

    This Addiction is pretty good. Cheesy as hell in many parts, but still pretty good.

    8/10

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