Alkaline Trio is such a hoot. First of all, the play on Elvis Costello’s album “My Aim is True,” with its album’s title “My Shame is True” is so utterly high school (or witty?) that I cracked up.
Second, the overarching pessimism to each and every Alkaline Trio song, including those on its eight previous records, is hard not to find endearing after consistent listening. This band is like the pissed off Bowling for Soup – they even have the same knack for humor and “1985”-like quirkiness (“She Lied to the FBI”). True, it is laughable at moments. However, with deeper listening I begin to feel more and more that Alkaline Trio are craftsmen of the self-deprecating tune, and I fail to find another band that has the same ability.
Alkaline Trio, besides apostles of the pitiful word, is a pop-punk band. As such, when listening to “My Shame Is True,” I often am absorbed more in each song’s structure and melody as opposed to its lyricism. It is when I repeat the listening process that the words of guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano truly come to light. This occurrence can be attributed to Alkaline Trio being a factory of not only sad songs but also a pop powerhouse.
Three words to describe Alkaline Trio: no holds barred. While being a band that inflects wretchedness all the time, it is indeed one of the most blatant. Case-in-point: “I’m Only Here To Disappoint,” a song Andriano leads on vocals, is about exactly what the title dictates. Then there’s “I, Pessimist,” the punk-iest song on the record, with swapping chants of the desire to “disappear, disappear.” Best yet, “The Torture Doctor,” which opens with, “The torture doctor is in / Back here to confess his sins / Knowing damn well he was dead wrong,” then strums its way into a chorus of “Hey, ho / We know how this story goes.” Yes, yes we do.
There are some songs of love (lost) on this record that may reveal that the Skiba/Andriano force is not one of pure disappointment.
On “Kiss You To Death,” Skiba is in a strong state of longing (or mourning, depending on the context of listening) as he sings, “You’re in my heart / You’re in my skull / You’re in my blood / You’re in my bones.” Andriano follows suit with “Only Love” later in the record, where a mysterious “her” is “all there is.”
At this point, talking about Alkaline Trio’s capability of writing the premier sad punk-rock song is beating a dead horse, and rightly so. Many of these songs are synonymous – they all talk about the singer’s mistakes, lost (generally dead) love and/or the deeds the singer should have done in order to not make sad mistakes. This band has been churning out approximately the same material since its beginning in the late 1990s, and “My Shame Is True” is the same in concept as the rest of the band’s records, solidifying it as sappy punk that can be counted on.
An earlier version of this story noted the bassist as Rob Doran. Alkaline Trio’s bassist is in fact Dan Andriano.