Artist: Alkaline Trio
Album: Agony and Irony
Comments: It seems that whenever a band releases an album that the fans hate with fanatical zeal, the damage control protocol is to say “but wait, this new album is going to sound exactly like that old album that you love!” On occasion, the band actually delivers on the promise, releasing an album of catchy pandering (ahem, Less than Jake.), but more often than not this wild promise just leaves the fans let down.
Such is the story of the Alkaline Trio. Their last album Crimson was universally rejected as garbage, and rightfully so. To stop the bleeding and appease their fan base, the group released an album of b-sides and rarities and started to float rumors about an upcoming album that would harken back to the band's Goddamnit glory days. That album is now out, and it's called Agony and Irony.
The hype is what is wrecking this album. While Agony and Irony doesn't live up to the Goddamnit hype, it is a fine album in its own right; a safe rock album that mixes the band's natural pop leanings and dark, lovelorn lyrics with a sleek, mainstream pop production.
Sleek is a fine description for a used car, but when you apply it to punk rock, there's a problem. There is no denying that Agony and Irony is a smooth as buttered sheet metal. Far removed from the rough-around-the-edges rock of their heyday, the tracks on this album are all radio ready and studio slick in a bland way that doesn't jump out right away, but sits in the back of your mind bothering you like a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth.
That being said, the songs are pretty good. Get past the production and what's left is a collection of solid-to-near-classic AK3 songs. Their dark demeanor and heartbroken heads remain intact and the band seems to have recaptured the poetic pen that blessed their early albums, the same one that was painfully absent on Crimson. The band even occasionally overcomes their wall of auto-tune to create some really good songs, namely “Over and Out” and “I Found a Way.”
By no means a new American punk classic, Agony and Irony is a strong release after the monumentally crappy Crimson, and establishes the Alkaline Trio as they move into an elder statesman roll in the punk world. They aren't going back to their early days, but those willing to grow along with them will be rewarded with some of the best radio-ready rock music in months.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: I Found a Way, Over and Out, Help Me
Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal