Alkaline Trio - Damnesia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Alkaline Trio

Damnesia (2011)

Epitaph/Heart & Skull

Alkaline Trio has been around for 15 years. To celebrate, rather than throw out a clichéd greatest hits package, or live album, they tried to do something different. Damnesia is a collection of old favorites "reimagined," as well as a couple new tracks, and a Violent Femmes cover, because why not? It's a noble attempt at thinking outside the box, but musically speaking, the results are mixed to say the least.

The expected classics are all here: "Radio", "This Could Be Love", "Clavicle", etc....but there are a few choices that will raise some eyebrows. Was anyone really clamoring for a new version of "The American Scream"? There are plenty of other missed opportunities in the tracklist.

Nobly, the band attempts to reinvent most of the songs, rather than simply "acousticizing" them. However, it rarely works. The pianos and drum loops on "This Could Be Love" don't fit the song's melody at all, and the whole thing just comes off as one huge mess. "Radio" fares a little better, but still pales in comparison to the original. In fact, the remakes that work best are the ones that are simply translated from electric to acoustic, such as "You've Got So Far to Go" and "Clavicle".

However, new material is what really works best here. "Olde English 800" is so fun and bouncy, it's easy to ignore the fact that it's basically a commercial. "I Remember a Rooftop" is the biggest standout on Damnesia, and would have been worthy of Dan Andriano's far superior Hurricane Season album. Their take on the Violent Femmes' "I Held Her in My Arms" is interesting as well, replacing the horns with strings and slowing the tempo down ever so slightly to make it their own.

One of the biggest problems with the record is its severe lack of Andriano. Of the 15 songs on Damnesia, 12 are sung by Matt Skiba. Part of the appeal of Alkaline Trio is the fact they have two very distinct vocalists. It would have been nice to see some more Dan songs, perhaps "Maybe I'll Catch Fire" or "I Lied My Face Off".

Damnesia is a classic example of a good idea with bad execution. There are a few great songs here, but they are surrounded by so many misfires that it's almost a chore to listen to all the way through. On the whole, Damnesia isn't much more than a disappointment, and is perhaps the low point of the Alkaline Trio discography thus far.