Full disclosure: Alkaline Trio is my favourite band. They have been for about ten years. And now I’m reviewing their new album, which seems like a conflict of interest. But I’m not anywhere close to important enough to get a kickback, or even know how to go about getting a kickback, so don’t worry, we’re totally legit here.
I probably will be super biased, though. So, you know, take that how you will.
Now, having said all that, I think it would be fair to say that the Chicago Punkers’ slate of releases in the past ten years have been hit and miss, to say the least. It’s been a bit of a rocky road since their last truly critically acclaimed album, 2003’s Good Mourning. But now, ten years later, after five more albums that felt somewhat like experiments with varying degrees of success, the band has come out of the gate with a tight, fully formed – and yes, very enjoyable – piece of work.
The album, titled My Shame is True, is the band’s ninth of a 15-year career. The lyrics run the gamut of regret, mourning, acrimony, and indeed, the titular shame. The songs are tight, well produced, sometimes raw, sometimes emotional and poignant, and most importantly for a pop-punk band, they’re fun. The album pulls off the feat of being fresh and vibrant, while for older fans, still feeling like slipping into your favourite sweater.
Working with their fifth producer in as many albums, I was initially concerned about where the sound on this record would go. But then I found out they were working with the legendary Bill Stevenson, whose producing credits include the likes of Black Flag, Descendants, NOFX, Anti-flag, Comeback Kid, Rise Against and, most recently, Hot Water Music (my other favourite band). After 2010’s blown-out and overproduced This Addiction, the Trio’s trip out to Stevenson’s the Blasting Room studio in Colorado felt like a much welcomed and very worthwhile endeavour.
Every time a band I’ve been listening to for a decade-plus puts out a new record, I feel equal parts excitement and dread. The classics are classics for a reason, and I’m not listening to music with the same ears (or angst) as 16-year-old me. I guess that’s all part of the minefield of adulthood. But when I first listened to this album, I posted on Facebook: “I know I’m not 16 anymore, but the new Alkaline Trio album is fantastic.” Yes, I’m not an emotionally conflicted, black-souled teenager anymore, but goddamnit, I still like Alkaline Trio, and there’s no Shame in that.