Alkaline Trio, Blackbird
Fortunately, Matt and Dan are no more able to change their stripes than they are to exorcise these ghoulish concerns from their writing. On Is This Thing Cursed?, the threats to life and liberty take an eerily more shapeless and ominous form. ‘I tried to throw it in the river, but it washed up in my sink, and now the city cut my water, and it’s all I have to drink,’ sings Dan on the title-track, without bothering to explain what the mysterious ‘it’ of which he speaks might actually be. ‘Leave me here alone to collect my things, she sees music in the terror she brings… there is no crime of treason that she hasn’t seen,’ announces Matt on Blackbird. It’s haunting, but as usual, there is a dark sense of humour at work here, too. The characters in Krystalline ‘Kissed away our memories and fucked away the pain,’ before going ‘Out for coffee’ and repeating the cycle all over again.
If Is This Thing Cursed? lacks the gun-metal grey coherence of 2003’s Good Mourning or 2001 breakthrough From Here To Infirmary, it is nonetheless an album peppered with strong and vibrant songs. Little Help? flies by like a band fleeing a crime scene, while I Can’t Believe – ‘Nothing to see here, move along, nobody to hear your black swansong’ – features a chorus to kill for. Elsewhere, the velvet-smooth covering over Sweet Vampires’ grisly heart and Heart Attacks’ tainted nostalgia are also highlights that demonstrate just what a meticulously produced and exquisitely written album this is.
Despite having become effectively a part-time concern and thus an outfit whose status remains steadfastly cult, at the very least Alkaline Trio can take a (grim) pride in having returned and reclaimed the title of Punk Rock Connoisseurs’ Band Of Choice with criminal ease here. As ever, on Is This Thing Cursed?, their music comes in any colour you like, so long as it’s black.
Words: Ian Winwood
Photo: Jonathan Weiner
Is This Thing Cursed? is out now on Epitaph Records. Check it out on the stream below.