It is getting to the point when I am unsure why people need to bother reviewing an Alkaline Trio CD.
Rarely does a rock band nail a sound that is so much ‘their’ own than Alkaline Trio have been able to over their long career. But this is both a blessing and a curse. Take album opener, and lead single, This Addiction, almost the prototypical Alkaline Trio single. It deals with a dark theme (in this case using the idea of a drug addiction as analogous to a relationship), with some octave chords, simple song structure and one hell of a hook. Fans of Alkaline Trio will undoubtedly lap it up, and rightly so, it’s a good song. But if we take a step back, this song could arguably fit on any album from Good Mourning onwards and you wouldn’t question it. Bands need to evolve, and to me this album smacks of Alkaline Trio sticking with the same formula they created on Good Mourning, honed on Crimson and refined on Agony & Irony.
I always found it interesting that fans and critics complained that Crimson and Agony & Irony constituted a marked move away from the real Alkaline Trio sound, because to me they didn’t. If weight in numbers counts for anything then Goddamnit was the atypical Alkaline Trio album and everything since then has been the norm (with the possible exception of Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.
But I feel I should go back to this point, This Addiction is a perfectly serviceable album, and as an Alkaline Trio fan I am content with what they have released. But it does at time sound like Alkaline Trio “by numbers”, and I can’t shake the suspicion that somewhere in Matt Skiba’s house is an Alkaline Trio song framework and when he needs to boost the number of tracks up for the album he can just fill in the blanks.
Though this album, like every Alkaline Trio album, has it’s highlights. As usual the album gets off to a great start with This Addiction and Lead Poisoning has all the hallmarks of an Alkaline Trio single as well. Though it is left to The American Scream to claim track of the album, with the hookiest hook on the album (as well as the lyriciest lyrics, and guitariest guitars clearly) and best chorus, it is another great Alkaline Trio song, even if it sounds eerily similar to a song that appeared on Agony & Irony.
So while I can’t say this is a bad album, I also can’t say that it is a great one, because it is exactly what I expected it to be. Alkaline Trio are one of the most consistent bands going, and every album they release will inevitably be a good one, but they will never propel themselves any further forward than where they are if they don’t try and change the formula slightly. And let’s be honest, who can be happy staying in the same place for this amount of time?
Simply put, if you want to know whether you should buy this album, ask yourself if you have liked any Alkaline Trio album before, if the answer is yes then you probably should. It won’t win any new fans, nor lose existing ones, but you can’t help but get the feeling that Alkaline Trio fans are running out of patience waiting for the band to take the next step.