Alkaline Trio, ‘My Shame Is True’ – Album Review
Alkaline Trio are reliable in all the right ways, and since the mid-’90s, the band has served listeners with a unique, inventive hybrid of power-pop and punk that runs close to the musical equivalent of comfort food. Their output is generally consistent, and with each new album, members of their rabid fan base pretty much know what they’re getting.
This mostly works in the band’s (and fans’) favor on their latest, ‘My Shame Is True,’ which marries their classic sound with some of their best songwriting. Singer and guitarist Matt Skiba has said that he wrote the album in response to a recent breakup, and while he doesn’t shortchange listeners hoping for high-energy elation, he also makes with some of the slightly browbeaten guilty-pleasure punk poetry Alkaline Trio are famous for.
From the frenzied beats of ‘The Torture Doctor’ to ‘I’m Only Here to Disappoint,’ the band proves that their hard-edged musical chops haven’t softened with time. (And props to them for this — few bands active since 1996 have been able to weather changing public tastes and remain vital.) ‘I Wanna Be a Warhol’ is as radio-ready as Alkaline Trio gets (one hopes mainstream radio will eventually catch up), and elsewhere, true to form, the band includes some of the darker tunes on which they’ve built their reputation. On tunes such as ‘I, Pessimist’ (“disappear, disappear, I don’t need this body”) and ‘Only Love’ (“How young are you gonna be when you die?”), they drive the angst home as they always have. Disappointment may be a thread that runs through ‘My Shame Is True,’ but taken in full, the album is in no ways dissatisfying.
Alkaline Trio are sometimes accused of hyping anguish for anguish’s sake and capitalizing on a type of torment only fit for teenage consumption. On tunes like ‘Young Lover,’ the band either revels in said criticisms or shrugs them off with a sly wink. “How did we grow up so fast?” Skiba asks, answering his own question with “Let’s kiss like we could die tonight.”
Sure, this kind of coyness, found throughout the album, can come across as either endearing or eye-roll-inducing, depending on how you see the overall genre. But since suspension of disbelief is practically a prerequisite when it comes to enjoying pop music — and all music, really — why not err on the side of endearing and wallow in the sweet, melodic misery?