When Alkaline Trio was preparing to release My Shame Is True, they never got around to releasing a teaser EP like some bands will do when they’re ready to release new material. And there’s really no reason for them to even need to do such a thing. After all, they’ve been a staple in the punk scene for fifteen years now- people are going to recognize their name whether or not they released a promotional EP with the lead single and two b-sides. So there really wasn’t any need for them to release anything outside of what was going to appear on the album.
But still they decided that releasing a new album wasn’t enough, and also put together a four song EP to act as a companion to the main release. The end result is Broken Wing, an EP that compliments My Shame Is True, but is also strong enough to stand on its own. [Author’s Note: I’m well aware that the iTunes Deluxe Edition of My Shame Is True tacked the Broken Wing EP at the end as bonus tracks, but for the sake of this review it will be treated as a separate release]
Stylistically, the songs on Broken Wing don’t vary too greatly from the tracks on My Shame Is True. However, there are fewer bells and whistles found in the song’s compositions, stripping away the extra layers like the synth of “Kiss You to Death”, and leaving the core of Skiba, Andriano, and Grant to shine doing what they do best. Interestingly enough, Broken Wing marks the first time ever on an Alkaline Trio release when Dan Andriano gets more of the spotlight than Matt Skiba, with the bassist singing lead on three of the four songs present (Yes, the I Lied My Face Off EP was 50-50, but since then the closest Andriano has come to getting equal lead time was his 5 songs on Good Mourning to Skiba’s 7).
The first track, “Balanced on a Shelf”, is the song that most resembles the production of My Shame Is True, so much to the point that it could easily fit into the album’s tracklist. In fact, one could switch it with one of the album’s weaker tracks (like “Kiss You to Death” or “Midnight Blue”) and improve its flow. While Andriano’s lyrics and vocals are on par with “I’m Only Here to Disappoint”, it’s Skiba’s guitar in the background that really makes this song shine.
“Pocket Knife”, the sole Skiba-penned tune in the collection, is the fastest track on here. Lyrically the song harkens back to the morbid romances of From Here to Infirmary and Good Mourning, and is just as catchy.
The title track is the best out of the bunch. The lyrics are more uplifting than one might expect from an Alkaline Trio song (particularly one written by Dan Andriano), but it provides some closure to the broken-hearted lyrics found on the LP. Also, that chorus is golden.
“Sun Burns”, sadly, does not contain any references to the classic Trio song “Sun Dials”, but it does contain another strong vocal performance from Andriano. It dulls in comparison to the previous two tracks, but much like “Balanced on a Shelf”, it’s as strong as anything that appeared on My Shame Is True, if not stronger than some of the songs that did make the cut (seriously, how did “Midnight Blue” make it but none of these songs did?)
The biggest downside to Broken Wing is that it only runs for 14 minutes. But it’s an EP, so the short time is to be expected. It also helps that these 14 minutes are some of the best 14 minutes that Alkaline Trio has ever cranked out. Whether it’s listened to as a companion piece to My Shame Is True, or if it’s listened to as a standalone EP, fans who have stuck with the band over the years aren’t going to be let down by this one.