REVIEW: Alkaline Trio – “Damnesia”

Alkaline Trio / Damnesia / Epitaph

McHenry, Illinois’ favourite punk trio Alkaline Trio is back with a new album, just a year after their last effort, This Addiction – and what’s this? One of the tracks off that album (“The American Scream”) turns up again this time? Is it a greatest hits compilation? No, not quite – Damnesia collects some cherished Alk-Three hits from back in the day re-worked into new, mainly acoustic numbers (also included are two new tracks and a Violent Femmes cover). The album best-represented in this is 2003’s Good Mourning, which may come to the dismay of those hoping for turn-of-the-millennium material, but a fair number of deep cuts from way back are here, including two tracks from 1998’s Goddamnit.

A few of the tracks come to life in this new more intimate format, as some of Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano’s cutting self-deprecating (or self-mutilating) metaphors are presented with more weight and clarity than in their usual double-time pace. For its first two minutes, aforementioned song “The American Scream” is composed entirely of Skiba’s voice, a piano and some haunting synth tones – straight out of a horror flick. And the guys still have a good amount of booze-fueled fun, as they are known to do, on “Olde English 800”. But for all of the tracks like “Calling All Skeletons” and “This Could be Love” that benefit from this treatment, there’s the odd inclusion where those old breakup lyrics, slowed down to unplugged-tempo, don’t have the same ring. Classic cut “Private Eye”, for example, flat lines during a chorus that formerly teemed with life. Meanwhile, their cover of “I Held Her in My Arms” reveals that the group may have missed out on their true calling – composing nineties sitcom theme songs.

Download: “The American Scream”, “Olde English 800”

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