In honor of our hometown (particularly Wicker Park) heroes, Alkaline Trio, announcing that they will be playing every one of their albums, in-full, live at the Metro this October, we decided to dust off our old compact disc collection, listen to all eight records, then rank them from not-so-greatest to greatest.
8. Agony & Irony (2008) – Most Alkaline fans will tell you this is their least favorite record. But the reason they will tell you is Alkaline Trio’s perceived foray into commercial waters with an album believed to be an attempt to land the band on Top 40 Rock Radio. Credence to this argument could be propelled by the video for lead single, “Help Me” which featured the band riding a digitally animated locomotive, while clad in turn-of-the-century steampunk garb, and attempting to rescue an equally steampunked damsel in distress played by Kat Von D., who at the time, was on one of the highest rated TV shows in the US, LA Ink. The video, basically aped the action sequence from the Will Smith vehicle, Wild Wild West.
However, we feel that the album’s shortcomings were a result of the band (ostensibly) mailing in 11-tracks of polished versions of B-sides they’d amassed in the 10-years since releasing Goddammit. They didn’t even bother to come up with an original album cover. Instead they rolled out the same skull and heart they’d be using since the Laura Jane Grace’s wife stumbled upon it at a Kinko’s in 1996.
7. This Addiction (2010) – After the aforementioned misstep with Agony & Irony, the band responded to fans jeers with This Addiction, a direct confutation to detractors’ claim that the band had strayed from its roots. It was supposed to be a back-to-basics rally cry for a forgotten cause. The return of the Alkaline Trio we had all fallen in love with a decade ago. It also marked a return to an independent label and to recording in Chicago. And for the most part, the album worked. It had all the pep and ferocity from the earlier records delivered in a manner that never veered from the classic shadowy pop-punk formula the band built its empire upon.
The only caveat being that Matt Skiba categorized the lyrical content on the album as being, “thinking-man’s punk.” An album that included the song “Dine, Dine, Dine My Darling.”
6. My Shame Is True (2013) – While the album contains, “I Want to Be a Warhol,” one of the best songs Alkaline Trio had put out in years, the confusing thing about the album as a whole is why all the best songs were left off the main LP tracklist, and instead, released separately as the Broken Wing EP.
5. From Here to Infirmary (2001) – This effort appears to be the Trio’s best attempt to excise the odious gloom and hostility of previous efforts and simply focus on the most palatable components of their musical concoctions. The approach delivered wholeheartedly on tracks like “Private Eye,” “Mr. Chainsaw,” and “Armageddon,” but feel flat and uninspired on tracks like “Stupid Kid” and “Another Innocent Girl.”
4. Good Mourning (2003) – Eventhough explicitly about 1st Degree Murder, the tired lyrical device of counting found in opener “This Could Be Love,” gives the listener the impression they’re in for a 2nd rate Alkaline Trio record. This impression goes out the window within the first measure of “We’ve Had Enough.” A song about the shortcomings and inadequate expositions of modern radio, ironically was Alkaline Trio’s first single to chart in the United States, reaching #38 on Billboard‘s Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also features a sweltering performance by post-Black Flag, pre-OFF!, singer Keith Morris.
3. Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000) – Your favorite song on this record is probably closer, “Radio,” if not title track, “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.” However, for us, it’s definitely “F**k you, Aurora.” It’d make sense to you if you lived in Chicago.
2. Goddamnit (1998) – The most sought after tickets for the upcoming live album concert series will definitely be the tickets for the night Alkaline Trio play every song from Godamnit. From “Cringe” to “Sorry About That.”
For us, these songs are the all-embracing soundtrack for how we spent our 20s drunkenly faltering down the unforgiving streets of Chicago. The delights of late-night whirling romance and irresponsibility coupled with the sobering mornings of subzero bike-rides to work are the formula of sentimental attachment.
All the songs seem to be written, not from someone living these encounters in real-time (as they actually were), but rather as someone experiencing a midlife crisis and reflecting on how they exhausted their first decade after graduating from high school. Lyrically, it’s the album you’d think Matt and Dan would write now.
1. Crimson (2005) – This was the album where Alkaline Trio did the one thing punk bands are never supposed to do when recording an album which is take their time and spend an incalculable amount of money and time, wallowing away in a studio, exploring the depth and subtleties of every sound.
The self-indulgent excesses of extravagant studio sessions and the skilled hand of late, great, Jerry Finn at the potentiometers birthed the most complete record in the Alkaline Trio catalogue.
Crimson yielded their most epic song, “Sadie,” a moody sympathetic ballad about serial killer, Susan Atkins.
It also contains their most feel-good hit of the summer (literally released in the summer), “Mercy Me.”
And the vocal double teaming of vocal trade-offs between Matt and Dan found in such barn burners as “Back to Hell.”
Objectively, its Alkaline Trio’s most diverse, most elaborate, most comprehensive, and overall most accomplished record. If you weren’t such a poseur, you’d recognize that.