On February 23rd, Chicago based Alkaline Trio put out their seventh album titled This Addiction and it’s their worst one to date. The band has released four albums on Asian Man Records, one on Vagrant, one on Epic, and This Addiction on Epitaph. Also under their wings are a few splits, opening slots for Green Day and My Chemical Romance, exclusive Hot Topic singles, and their own label, Heart & Skull. They’ve climbed to the top of the indie scene and are now teetering on the edge of becoming a band that may have reached too deep into the lyric bin. Track one, “This Addiction”, has all the pop they can muster and an odd video to boot with the camera screaming into and around Dan Andriano and crew. This is the one shining track off of the Trio’s new album and I say that with the utmost care and regret. Songs such as “Burn”, “My Friend Peter”, “Hell Yes”, “Trucks And Trains”, and “Blue In The Face” are close to my heart and receive regular play wherever I may be. On my first run through of This Addiction and I can only stomach one other track titled “The American Scream”. The most off-putting thing about the new album is the lack of lyrical originality found on every other album.
I first heard From Here To Infirmary the day it came out back in 2001. From then on, every track on every album, split, compilation and soundtrack I’ve played into the dirt. With This Addiction I found myself skipping tracks. Track two, the Dan Andriano sung Misfits tribute “Dine, Dine My Darling” has me skipping to track three just in time to hear Andriano udder a mish-mash chorus of thrown together cheese. “Let’s have our last supper/a toast to lovers and we’ll dance real sweet and slow/and then kiss, kiss, kiss ’till the last clock tick”. This is a perfect example of rhyming just to say you can regardless of what you come up with. The upbeat, Ramones-esque “Lead Poisoning” lacks any punch as Skiba’s vocals prevail in the mix, leaving Dan and Derek in the background sharing the stage with the most inappropriate use of a horn in any rock song I’ve ever heard, ever. It is truly hard listening any further on this one, so I don’t.
Moving forward to “Dead On The Floor”, if you can get past the obvious fact that this is a redo of the intro to “Southern Rock” off of Alkaline Trio’s self-titled release then proceed. That is, until you realize that “Dead On The Floor” turns into another redo, this time it’s “Sadie” off both their split with One Man Army and on Crimson. Ah yes, we’re finally to the next track, one of the only other songs I can stomach on This Addiction called “The American Scream”. Skiba’s guitar noodling under the introduction drives this track fiercely forward. The song hearkens back to old school Trio and they’re right at home on this one. It’s a call to anyone who always thought they were doing the right thing and in the end were ultimately shot down. Take this in a more political stance, rather than that of a life lesson on a more empathetical, human footing. “Off The Map” is up next as track six. It has a harmonic chugging intro and another Andriano vocal sends this one down with the others. In a creepy, too close to the inside of your ears vocal line Andriano lisps, “I needed more wine, you needed more sleep. We just fought two hours and seven minutes, honestly I’m surprised we made it”. He lingers on this wail of stupidity with, “I retire to my chair, I grab my new guitar”. Really? He also croons “I’m a junkie for your smart mouth”. As he does on previous tracks, trying to perhaps emulate Talib Kweli by fitting too much into too small of a space, Andriano crams as many words as he can to fill up space. “Off The Map” is a bore, with not enough of anything to keep my interest. Next!
“Draculina” is track seven out of eleven, so we’re almost done. I really don’t like the negativity I feel listening to an album I don’t enjoy by one of my all-time favorite bands. It’s really hard to hear Matt Skiba, Dan Andriano, and Derek Grant do this to me. Yes, I take it personally. How can I not? When you hold music as close as I do it’s hard not to be a bit upset and contain your anger for the sake of doing a fairly level review of a very mediocre (at best) album. The shorter the song the better, which I’ve never said about a Trio song. In the past it’s been more like “the longer the better”. “Draculina” begins with Skiba singing “Whatever happened to Wonderland, where’d Alice go. oh”. Based on that, it’s better to just move right along while trying to forget that each track on This Addiction seems to sound just like songs they’ve already written. “Eating Me Alive” begins like that of an 80′s dream sequence. I picture the pop singer Tiffany dancing in a spotlight lit room with white drapes hanging from the ceiling. Skiba repeats a line from “Dead End Road” here but oh-so cleverly switches it up – “Now you’re stuck in my head like a love song” from “Eating Me Alive” compares pretty closely to “when your smile’s stuck in your head like a pop song” from “Dead End Road”. Again, another example of the empty lyric bin Alkaine Trio are dipping their dirty hands in. Track nine, “Piss And Vinegar”, despite an interesting Crow reference (“I feel like it’s raining all the time”) and a nice little minor guitar riff mid-chorus – as well as a few impressive drum fills from Derek Grant – is again lacking.
With the last two tracks off of This Addiction, “Dorothy” and “Fine”, the album ends on a sour note. Not much can be taken away from this release. It may have been in your best interest to pick it up the first week of its release at Target for $7.99. Based on the simple songwriting and the nauseating lyrical content, This Addiction is sad, and to the die-hard Alkaline Trio fans such as myself, it will greatly disappoint. Any reference in interviews that Matt Skiba may have made stating that This Addiction would sound like Goddamnit were way off base. A slight lick of the production value may come close but that’s all. The only saving grace in the Trio corner is that they recorded it in their hometown with producer Matt Allison.