Album Review: Alkaline Trio – “My Shame Is True”

“My Shame Is True” marks Alkaline Trio’s return to the game after what was essentially a three year absence (2011’s “Damnesia” consisted of acoustic reworkings of songs that Trio fans already knew and loved). And maybe ‘absence’ is a bit of an overstatement, as Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano both put out solo albums and Derek Grant put out a couple releases with his Dead Ending project. Some fans (okay, this fan) were a little skeptical of what a new Trio album might behold in 2013. Would we see more acoustic, Revival Tour-esque ballads? Perhaps an even greater increase in the appearance of synthesizers and Indian headdresses? Whether or not the band were looking on “My Shame Is True” as a turning point moment, I was nervous that it would have that potential, and not in a good way.

Boy was I wrong.

“My Shame Is True” is a collection of a dozen rawest, most personal songs in a decade. I genuinely liked “This Addiction,” perhaps more than the average Alkaline Trio fan. Sure it was a departure of sorts, but departures are a good thing for a band that’s been around as long as Alkaline Trio. “My Shame Is True,” however, is a return to form, and would make perfect sense as a follow-up to 2005’s “Crimson.”

Tracks like album opener “She Lied To The FBI,” “Kiss You To Death” and “The Temptation Of St. Anthony” are the type we’ve come to love and expect from the Trio; infectious three-chord melodies, macabre-inspired narrative lyrics, Derek Grant’s vastly underrated drumming acting as the anchor. “I Wanna Be A Warhol” made me nervous at first; the choruses rhyming couplet seemed a bit of a stretch at first, but I quickly came around (and have been humming it nonstop for 36 hours straight). “The Torture Doctor,” with self-aware retread of a chorus, “I’m Only Here To Disappoint” and its urgent, sinister-sounding riff and “I, Pessimist” which features guest vocals from Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath are two of the album’s standouts and figure to be live staples for years.

In what was one of the more unexpected turns, “My Shame Is True” also finds Skiba and Andriano at arguably the most raw and vulnerable that we’ve seen them in a long time (at least on Alkaline Trio releases). The majority of the album’s B-side is composed of tracks that are stripped of some of the morbidly cynical lyrical turns that have been the Trio’s bread-and-butter, instead telling tales of genuine hurt and pain and anguish. The Andriano-crooned “Only Love” is a little more of a mid-tempo arena rock song (think more recent Gaslight Anthem or *gasp* Pearl Jam) that reminds us that all that we need is “on this earth/ Not what’s below or above.” Skiba, for his part, seems to have experienced more than his fair share of love-lost since “This Addiction,” as evidenced by the tear-jerking “One Last Dance” and “Until Death Do Us Part.”

Let’s be honest; Alkaline Trio aren’t reinventing any wheels on “My Shame Is True.” What they are doing, however, is refining their formula to near perfection (especially if you include the four-songs on the bonus “Broken Wing” EP). “My Shame Is True” is a bona fide great album that stands up to anything in their Vagrant-era catalog and is sure to reignite the flames of passion of some of their older fans who might have felt as though the Trio had been off their game of late. Oh, we of little faith…

4/5 stars

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