Reviews Alkaline Trio This Addiction

Alkaline Trio

This Addiction

So. The big question. A return to form? Quick answer – yes. Less quick answer – yes, but.

A lot has been touted about the latest album from Skiba, Andriano, and Grant and some of it is even true. It's a definite move away from the ill-advised adult rock of 2008's Agony & Irony, but it falls far from being a primal reinvention of the alt-punk cool of Maybe I'll Catch Fire. Everyone who has moaned about their output since that popped onto shelves is going to be disappointed. Instead it hops readily back into the energized but morbid pop-punk of their mainstream breakout period. Several of the tracks on offer here could be wedged firmly into From Here to Infirmary and eyelids would not be batted.

As the first release from the band-championed label Heart & Skull, you might expect this to be a more raw and immediate release than it is. However, it comes across as very slick and precise. This isn't negative in and of itself, but when combined with songs written in the darkly passionate style of yesteryear it comes across as a little bit forced.

You can feel Matt Skiba straining to reach the misery of days past, both vocally and lyrically. Alkaline Trio lyrics have always been of a type, revolving around familiar imagery with each outing: fire, addiction, regrets, failed relationships etc. This is possibly the first record where it feels rote. The elements are all there but the ragged wit and turn of phrase is noticeably absent. Dan Andriano's contributions are frequently dark horses, lurked unnoticed in the track listings until the third or fourth listen when they reach out and yank on your ears for attention. Again, for This Addiction the craftsmanship doesn't seem quite there. The likes of "Dine, Dine My Darling" sound like they have been primed as album leaders but really don't engage to the level where they're more than filler.

That's not to say this isn't a satisfying record. While there is a certain sterility here, that doesn't stop many of the songs firmly working their hooks into your head with devilish glee. The trio take a fair swing at instrumental experimentation with keyboard work on "Eating Me Alive" and some brass on "Lead Poisoning," which makes for a refreshing variation on the Alk3 sound. And then there's the title track and "The American Scream," both of which race out of your speakers, dressed in black with huge grins on their faces. I was ready to declare the latter as one of their finest songs until I realized quite how much it sounded like "Warbrain".

So what to take from all this? Time for an answer even less quick than "Yes, but." While this isn't the pick of their catalog, it is certainly their best release for some years. It's a return to form in style if not in substance, and for now that's enough to keep me happy/sad/addicted/on fire.

7.8 / 10Matt T.
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7.8 / 10

7.8 / 10

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