Home > News & Reviews > Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed? (Album Review)

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Jonathan Weiner

Perhaps we place too much stock in being surprised - or at least in the pursuit of something shiny and new to entertain us - because we often laud ambition and apparent boundary-pushing at the expense of craft. After all, why should we be impressed by the execution of dog-eared blueprints?

In that context, Alkaline Trio’s ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’, their ninth LP and first in five years, could easily be seen as a retreat to safe pastures. Before its arrival the band discussed its rapid-fire writing and recording with reference to their 2000 album ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’, while their status as elder statesmen of the punk scene has only been underlined by recent preoccupations with side projects, solo albums and, in the case of Matt Skiba, a stadium-sized detour with Blink-182.

But ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ isn’t a warm, fuzzy retread. To get suitably bloody, this is a veteran boxer stepping through the ropes and staving someone’s head in while the crowd sits open-mouthed.

Here, Skiba, Dan Andriano and Derek Grant have seamlessly slipped back into a groove they haven’t found regularly since 2003’s ‘Good Mourning’. This isn’t a great late period Alkaline Trio record, it’s a great Alkaline Trio record period.

Its biggest strength is a steadfast opposition to those esoteric elements so many demand of music before it can be deemed noteworthy. Instead, its songs are short, sharp, faultlessly melodic and arch in their fan service. Back in July, when Blackbird was released as its first single, we were welcomed by an opening line that immediately lit a gaudy, macabre fire under things. “She's black and red and built just like a spy plane,” Skiba sang, recalling a whole host of pulpy former glories.

The song’s fizzing tempo, anthemic chorus and layered harmonies are repeated across the piece, while lyrically there is grisly wit to underscore a grisly reality. On I Can’t Believe there is the blank-eyed credulity of the MAGA crowd (“He’s no longer breathing, but singing along,” Skiba exhales) while Blink’s near miss with Fyre Festival is recast as Lord of the Flies for the Instagram set on Goodbye Fire Island. “Feeding on the fainting models,” Skiba drawls. “White meat festival, yeah.”

The title track is more of an open book led by Andriano’s experiences with depression. “I tried to throw it in the river, but it washed up in my sink,” he sings. As the song bursts into life the bassist works in tandem with Skiba in a manner that nods to their old friends in the Lawrence Arms and their ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ album.

The vocalists back each other at every turn, injecting their own personalities while bolstering the whole. The song’s spare opening also cribs a little from Andriano’s work with Jeff Rosenstock on ‘Party Adjacent’, while Skiba’s own solo dabbling is apparent in several anthemic mid-tempo moments, including the standout, Chicago-centric throwback Demon and Division.

There’s nothing here we haven’t heard before - both within the confines of an Alkaline Trio album and without - but each element of ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ feels vibrant and, with apologies to the band, alive. It’s perhaps a stretch to see it becoming as well-loved as ‘Goddamnit’ given the fact that their fans are, broadly speaking, older and less impressionable than they once were, but it looks at home in such exalted company.  





Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!




Related News

Alkaline Trio Share New 'Is This Thing Cursed?' Track Demon and Division
Wed 29 Aug 2018
Photo: Jon Weiner Alkaline Trio have unveiled a new track.
Alkaline Trio Share Title Track From New Album 'Is This Thing Cursed?'
Tue 07 Aug 2018
Photo: Jon Weiner Alkaline Trio have released the title track of their forthcoming ninth studio album.
Alkaline Trio Announce New Album 'Is This Thing Cursed?'
Thu 19 Jul 2018
Alkaline Trio have announced their new album.
Busted Share New Track Nineties From Upcoming Album 'Half Way There'
Fri 02 Nov 2018
Busted have released a new song.
Sleaford Mods To Return With New Album 'Eaton Alive' And Marathon Spring Tour
Fri 30 Nov 2018
Sleaford Mods have announced a new record and a massive UK tour.
Queen Zee Tease Debut Album With New Single Hunger Pains
Mon 12 Nov 2018
Queen Zee have shared a new single.
Busted Tickets For Spring UK Arena Tour On Sale 9am Today
Fri 02 Nov 2018
Busted will support their upcoming album with a spring UK tour. Busted tickets go on general sale at 9am today. Head here for pre-sale tickets.
Mineral Share First New Song in 20 Years, Announce May London Show
Mon 05 Nov 2018
Photo: Peter Beste Mineral have returned with their first new song in two decades and details of a London show as part of a world tour.
 
< Prev   Next >