Alkaline Trio - Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs (Cover Artwork)

Alkaline Trio

Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs (2024)

Rise records

Chicago's Alkaline Trio have returned from their longest studio album gap to-date with Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs, presenting some lovely new numbers, a welcoming sense of cohesion, and a somber farewell to a staple bandmate.

In usual Alk3 fashion, "Hot For Preacher" is a very smart choice for an album opener, stitching familiar Skiba melodies with heavy guitar riffs, and a gigantic chorus entering bassist Dan Andriano's polished vocal harmonies. "Meet Me" jumps in with even more guitar and bass acrobatics, offering some of the most technically proficient playing in the band's discography, before melting into classic, brooding Matt Skiba, and some eerie keys from Curtis Mathewson. "Version of You" finally rolls in Andriano on lead vocals, with another complicated riff, and is just moment-after-moment from start to finish.

Single "Bad Time" is a perfect-fit for track four. Glowing, and fully intended rhythm guitar tracks supporting the fun anthem. The additional guitars have been present in backing tracks throughout the early stint of late-night performances to promote the single, though the (trio) band hasn't gone entirely without a fourth member before. The song is a home-run. "Scars" dredges Dan's vocal timbre through full, dirty-clean, minor chords, tugging the listener back into the meat of the album with a standard Andriano chorus and hyper-precise story-telling from drummer Derek Grant. Just a fantastic song. "Break" haunts in with the quickest bpm thus-far, Cameron Webb's pristine mix blending goth chimes with Skiba's earnest, doubled, octave of vocals, and some of the best bass playing on the record from Andriano. Spectacular song.

"Shake with Me" lifts-off into another pop number, and while accompanied with tight single-guitarist riffs and catchy-as-hell hooks and vocal melodies, it seems Skiba can easily shed his skin of any connection to his five-or-so year role in Blink-182. Several pop standards from 2018's Is This Thing Cursed? sounded a bit confused, as if the lines were beginning to intersect, but not here. Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs is a complete thought, with, perhaps, some level of vindictive intent to present themselves fully in-tune with their writing at a level we haven't heard since 2005's Crimson.

This theory is further evident with the title-track, and while this single was released long enough ago to burn a hole into our headphones, all of the great showings of a great Alkaline Trio song are present: Dual vocals, a three-piece rock band, some morbid enough to be cute lyrics, and Derek Grant's impeccable taste. Perhaps most bittersweet is the reality that this is indeed the final swan-song from the twenty-two-plus year drummer, who said goodbye to the band after the recording session. Atom Willard of Against Me!, Angels & Airwaves, and the Offspring fame is excitingly taking on the new full-time role, but time will tell if his monstrous, heavy-hitting will supplement the ever-so-particular rock fills, choice ride-pings, low-tom punctuation, and overall character of Grant's playing. The man took a very short-scoped idea of a much needed stylistic change in Mike Felumlee's 2001 From Here To Infirmary performance, and generated a signature craft, a drum church that will influence creative-thinkers behind the kit for decades to come. Thank you Derek.

A brief "Hinterlude" rests ambience and ebow gently between the hit and "Broken Down In A Time Machine," perhaps Andriano's catchiest of the eleven songs. The three-minute tune celebrates a giant chorus, a wide-open bridge, sing-along vocals all over the place, and a dissonant mood that the album is winding shut. "Teenage Heart" opens with echoed guitar cabinet and a great vocal intro from Skiba, before opening a driving retrospective that is a perfect closer. Andriano picks up on the second verse before the band returns to another chorus, completing the record in a pitted showcase, and a nod to the listener for sticking around.

Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs is a great release, composed of some of Alkaline Trio's best, and most importantly, most inspired writing in quite some time. Absolutely recommend.