Hope you are well. It's your trusty old friend making a return from the dusty 'Org archives. Or am I just an AI?
Well, be that as it may, it does feel cheesy and cliched to say that 2024 starts off with what may be record of the year. Right? However, pop punk veterans, Alkaline Trio, stake a claim for that title in the most resounding way. Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs isn't just a testimony to over 20 years of making music. It's not just AK3 churning out their tenth studio album and showing the 'new kids on the block' how it's done. This is AK3 reminding folks like me (back pain and all, approaching their '40s) that this genre isn't limited by age whatsoever -- whether you're an artiste or a fan.
This is one of those albums where fans would tell you: front to back, bangers. Full replay value. Just start anywhere and let the good times roll. Scratch the cynicism of all these statements -- they're damn right. AK3 kick off with some of the best work they've done, nodding to past eras such as Crimson and Good Mourning. The opener, "Hot for Preacher" has that hard rock vibe that Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters fans would like, while "Meet Me" has that poppier, modern energy that feels like Twenty One Pilots meets AFI; a combo you'd expect many to mess up. But not AK3.
Their mainstream sensibilities are on point, doing what I personally think Tom DeLonge hoped Angels & Airwaves would evolve into. These songs are catchy and shockingly, nuanced lyrically as Matt Skiba (guitars) and Dan Andriano (bass) wax poetic on the pangs of growing old and how apocalypses occur within (mid-life crises) and externally (COVID-19). Seriously, existential dread never sounded this good, even with the whimsical teenage lines that would usually leave you skeptical over grown men singing these things. But with crunchy, gurgling baselines and hooky riffs, where AK3 fall short verbally, the muscle spine is as enticing as it gets. Coming from someone who didn't think they could top "Time to Waste" or "Warbrain," that says a lot.
What also makes the album tick is when Andriano runs lead, giving it a darker, morose edge. "Versions of You" and "Scars," for example, are sonically different, but Andriano adds a gravitas that's perfectly accentuated by Skiba sitting back and chiming in here and there -- something I think his Blink 182 run helped smoothen. Throw in the numerous Easter eggs and references (church bells and such), there really is something for every iteration of an AK3 fan; new ones, those who were seeking throwbacks, and a mix of everything in between.
What helps is the singles they released initially really hit home. From the title track (which has an awesome zombie video, to boot) and "Bad Time," Skiba -- in particular -- illustrates how simple yet slick and effusive his chord-work can be. It reiterates that, at a time where Blink 182 and Green Day are alive and kicking, and putting out great music, nostalgics like myself have so much more to do than just yell at the cloud. Not gonna spoil too much here, but even the middling content and filler are on point, building to one of their best closers in "Teenage Heart." It has the energy of a slow ballad, but the alternative rock essence that really has me wondering why AK3 didn't blow up bigger in the '90s and 2000s. If anyone deserved it, it's them!
Ultimately, there aren't enough compliments I can pay this album. Blood, Hair, and Eyeballs stands head and shoulders above so many new and old acts these days, who I would admit are doing pretty well for themselves and producing solid music. But I'm glad to say AK3 is a cut above. I saw them live and they killed it, which has me eager now to see if Skiba can reproduce these vocals. I'll admit, he sounded a bit rough on Jimmy Kimmel Live, but hey, I guess this is growing up (as TBS, Mark Hoppus, and so many other bands would let you know). All in all, I'll be very excited to hear them, and especially to see Atom Willard on the kit. Side note: Derek Grant laid down the kit work before he left, but I'll be damned if I don't mention how great Willard is live. He's a perfect match and someone I think will make these tracks resonate even louder live. All in all, for a band I followed since high-school to still be making music this amazing, it's a remarkable blessing and a work of art I hope people give a chance. And honestly speaking, it's loud, raucous and the kind of magic that will kick your doors down, even if you didn't want it to. A collection of sing-alongs and shout-along anthems that will devour you -- blood, hair, eyeballs, and everything else.