By Alexander “Stigz” Castiglione
The 2010 release of This Addiction by Alkaline Trio will not have you hooked. It will not have you fiending. It will not have you tweaked out and hitting the repeat button like a lab rat on speed. And no, it won’t have you tearing out your hair looking for it when you misplace it.
As a massive fan of their earlier work, having to say this…hurts me.
Any true Alkaline fan will tell you that despite this three-piece ensemble usually using the same chords and progressions, they still manage to come up with hauntingly simple tracks with the most poetically disturbing (and often relatable) lyrics. But with This Addiction…they better find something else to hook us, because the dosage on this album is weak.
Don’t get me wrong though, if you are a lyrically based music fan, you’ll love this album. Flipping through the liner notes and reading the lyrics, I was super-stoked to put this CD on and rock out. Then I hit play, and it was downhill from there.
In their previous release, Agony and Irony, they started to get more lyrical and not the unpolished, grimy, almost spoken word meter they had to their earlier work. Either they hooked up with a vocal coach, or they just worked on their vocals more because a more sing-song type style emerged in this album. There are a few songs on Agony and Irony that I love, and the CD is pretty damn good now that I think about it. The true judgment of an album is the question: “do I ever need to hit ‘next track’ because I can’t stand a song?” If the answer is no, the album is good. If you hit “repeat all” the album is great. And if you burn out buttons on your I-pod, the album is amazing. However, there are only two or three songs on This Addiction I really enjoy. The rest I simply tolerate.
“Dorothy” and “American Scream” are about as close as you’re going to get on this album if you vibe with me and love their earlier work. If you love the classic tracks I do, like “Private Eye,” “Armageddon,” “Radio,” “Stupid Kid,” ”Cooking Wine,” or “Queen of Pain,” this album will royally piss you off. Consider yourself warned.
I’ll say it again: I love this band. They are in my Top 5, and it depresses me to have to say this.
But I have to. If you’re reading this, I got to be honest with you: Some songs on this release confused me as a listener and slightly agitated as a fan. Songs like “Dine, Dine My Darling” make no sense given their earlier work and “Off the Map” is way too catchy in a bad and commercialized way; this scares the shit out of me. Alkaline Trio was always one of those rare musical gems that few people knew about, and the ones that did were rabid fans.
From a lyrical sense, strictly the words they use, this album is in line with their previous work: Absolute poetry for a disillusioned and distracted generation. But the delivery and chord progressions and overall composition leaves a devout fan wanting more old and less new. This Addiction will not have you strung out in any sense, and if anything will make you want to drink and try to figure out “What the fuck were they thinking.”
Two months later, I’m still on the fence about some tracks. “Eating Me Alive,” has classic elements that I totally dig, but there are some symphonic, lush, orchestral elements that confuse my ears. “This Addiction,” the title track, also rubs me the wrong way. It sounds like Alkaline Trio, but it doesn’t sound like Alkaline Trio. Excuse the tautology, but it’s the best way to describe it. There are several points on this album that evoke that same emotion. It’s like listening to one of my favorite bands in an alternate universe that is worryingly different yet strikingly the same.
In short, if you’ve loved Alkaline Trio way before Agony and Irony, I’d bet you wouldn’t dig this. If you’re not too familiar with them, check it out-you may like it. I’d recommend tracks that I mentioned like “American Scream” or “Dorothy,” if you like things a little edgier. If you like something catchy and moderately upbeat check out “Off The Map.”
And if by the off-chance Matt Skiba or anybody else in Alkaline Trio is reading this: Please, please, please – can we get back to how you sounded on Remains, Crimson, and Good Mourning? Or dare I ask put us back in the hospital with an album like From Here to Infirmary or Maybe I’ll Catch Fire? I’ll settle for covers that kick ass; like the bands take on Berlin’s “The Metro” or “Bye, Bye Love.” Can we get more songs like “Warbrain” and “This Could Be Love?” Can you rock out like “Donner Party (all night long)” or “Tuck Me In” for the love of all things holy? Can you rebroadcast jams like “Radio”? And all I want for Christmas is more tunes like “We’ve Had Enough” that I can use as a soundtrack for heavy drinking. Please.