Compilations, rarities, B-sides and other "extra content" albums are always something of a grab bag. You never fully expect something amazing, maybe a hidden treat or two, but mostly just a bunch of crap that wouldn't fit anywhere else. With this almost damning depiction in mind, throw in the x-factor of releasing a second compilation album in a band's career, and you're just asking for constant chants of "obligatory contract fulfillment album," or simply being referred to as a cash whore.
But the Alkaline Trio have an ace up their collective sleeve. It's like playing blackjack, and each time you tell the dealer "hit me," you get ace, after ace, after ace. Their first B-sides record, the 2000 singles comp Alkaline Trio, is the best "album" of their catalog some would say (as would this reviewer). The material on Remains is some of the band's most beloved, fan-favorite material since, well, that album. Toss in a loaded DVD full of extras like live performances, a mini-documentary and some other goodies, and you've got something even better than a new full-length.
Remains combines, well, the remaining material and compilation material from the past several years. Favorites like "Jaked on Green Beers," "Warbrain" and "Queen of Pain" are all accounted for, along with their stellar cover of Hot Water Music's classic, "Rooftops." Other standouts include "Hell Yes," "Dead and Broken" and "Sadie." "Old School Reasons" provides the proverbial "old school vibe" that fans of the Trio's earlier years will smile from ear to ear about.
The only complaint about the CD portion of the Remains package would be the live tracks. As far as the performance goes, no complaints, but the recording quality really leaves something to be desired. The trait follows over to the DVD portion as well...
Speaking of which, the DVD itself is a great companion to the audio offering of Remains. The brief documentary, "Remains of 2004-2006" offers a glimpse of the band on the road, with several live performances spliced in between segments. The camera work for the live performances is great, but again it's the audio quality leaving something to be desired. Other than that, the mini-film offers an entertaining view into the road life of the group, including a interesting episode of déją vu with guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba playing peacemaker in a Tempe, AZ skatepark.
The music video section includes the band's video catalog from their last three albums. Though widely available prior to the compilation's release, the videos offer an interesting view of the wide scope of endeavors and artistic exploration taken throughout recent years.
The artwork and packaging of Remains provides absolutely no disappointment. With a full-glossy booklet with complete liner notes from band members for each song, personal thoughts and reflections are provided for every track on the CD.
Overall, Remains is a great musical package for any fan of the genre. Rapid A3 admirers will love the complete attention to detail on the packaging and DVD, however, newer fans can easily use it as a starting point for a further look into the band's extensive catalog. As a casual listener of the Trio, I just enjoyed a well-compiled collection of great music and and perfect accompaniment with the DVD. Great release all around.