Artist: The Alkaline Trio
Comments: Seeing as tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, I’m going to offer a tip out there to all the ladies: Don’t date the Alkaline Trio. Oh sure, their songs about heartbreak and wounded souls might make you swoon and pine for their ruined livers and bald heads, but you’re just going to end up dead with your body hacked to pieces and buried under floor boards. But by all means, listen to their newest collection of B-sides (yes, this is their second helping).
The album opens with the one two punch of “Hell Yes” and “My Standard Break From Life”; two excellent, if not more common B sides. The former features the usual from Skiba (which is blasphemy, betrayal, and badass yelling) and the latter is classic Andriano (full of self depreciating woe and baldness). These songs serve as more than a good introduction to the album, they are a microcosm for the Alkaline Trio as a group. Their music has always been fueled by heartbreak, an interest with the occult, and alcoholism. What keeps them from being the next hardcore/punk Victory records band is their song writing and their pop chops, both of which are reflected on these first two songs.
It gets better from there as the album starts to dive into more of the mid period Trio work. Despite a mis-step in the form of a cover of Berlin’s “Metro”, the first 7 or 8 songs are air tight pop punk. Standouts of this first half include the Hot Water Music cover, the excellently done “Rooftops”. The real triumph of that cover is that The Trio owned it, and what could have been a sloppy chord swap into a song that is really their own. The other big fish from this first batch of excellence is the balls out rhythm of “Naked on Green Beers”. This song is a furious punch of rolling drums and pounding bass while Skiba and Andriano scream “I hope this is goodbye” at the top of their lungs. In the hands of others, this would come off as nothing more than the whining of an angst-y teen. In the hands of the Trio, it sounds like death threat.
This album is littered with good tracks. “Warbrain”, which first appeared on the “Rock Against Bush” comp still sounds crisp three years later. “Fine Without You”, while it tends to emote a little more than others, features a great hook on the chorus and some tasty drum rolls. As the record rolls on, some later period “Crimson” B-sides pop up, which make me both wonder why they were left off of crimson, and give me comfort that the Alkaline Trio hasn’t lost a step after a near 10 year of cranking out consistently excellent pop-punk.
It’s not without its problems. Because it’s a B-side comp and not an actual record, it lacks a thematic feel to hold it all together. Also, it runs a little lone, and some of the songs toward the back of the record cannot hold up against the first two thirds of the record. Where the majority of the songs sound like they could be album material, some stuff in the back, like “Don’t Say You Won’t” and especially “Buried” play like real b-sides. They aren’t bad, but they cannot hold up to the older stuff. The live tracks are all from the most recent tour with Against Me!. They sound OK, but don’t add much. The only track that really interests me from that crop is the acoustic rendering of “Standard Break From Life”
The bottom line is this; The Alkaline Trio have released a better B-side album than most modern pop punk bands can hope to release. Much like Less Than Jake’s “B is for B Sides”, bands would kill to write songs as good as these. The real impressive thing is that this is the band’s scraps, and that alone should give you an idea of how consistent these guys have been. This album of second hand songs is a breath of fresh air among a world of lesser band’s best stuff.
But under no circumstances, ladies and gay dudes, should you ever date the Alkaline Trio. You’ve been warned.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Key Tracks: “Hell Yes” “Naked on Green Beers” “Rooftops” “Warbrain” “Fine Without You”
Worth The Money: Yes Sir