Alkaline Trio - This Addiction (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Alkaline Trio

This Addiction (2010)

Heart & Skull / Epitaph

When any band promises a "return to form" it is sure to evoke some enormous expectations. Unfortunately, the result almost always renders in a disappointed consensus; when a band spends years maturing, refining and experimenting, it's impossible to ignore your artistic advancements and simply wallow in the naivety and sloppiness of the glory days. If anything, it'll sound forced and stale. Alkaline Trio's This Addiction isn't so much a "return to form," but rather a summary--a sonic scrapbook of sorts that carefully documents their entire career, from sour home Chicago to the dressing rooms of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

While most of This Addiction's track listing spins like a better version of their Good Mourning days, it's the subtle allusions to the rest of their catalogue that makes all the difference. On one side you have "Dead on the Floor," which recalls the more tame moments to the acclaimed Goddammit; on the other side, you have the rhythmic, Agony & Irony-styled pop of "Dorothy" (whose hi-hat flow is almost producer Matt Allison's homage to the late, great Jerry Finn). But as much as it is a tribute to themselves, it is to the band's heroes. Dan's Smoking Pope worship on "Dine, Dine, My Darling" is nothing new, but his impression of Glenn Danzig's inflection on "darling!" is unmistakable. Likewise, Matt hits those Jeff Pezzati "whoa"s pretty dead-on.

In true old-school Trio fashion, Matt dominates over Dan in vocal eight-to-three ratio, to be exact. But with the feel-shifting and goosebump-inducing harmonies, Dan's "Off the Map" proves to be one of the disc's most brilliant moments. Matt's game steps up significantly on the second half of the album with "Eating Me Alive," a track which builds into punchy power chords and a subsequent synth interlude. The amount of years Matt and Dan have invested in the band have really molded a tight cooperation--their individual standout tracks are only made better by their vocal contributions on each other's work. Lastly, "Fine," Dan's best vocal execution to date, shows incredible control and articulation. It puts "Smoke" to shame.

One frustrating detail is Matt's lyrics. They aren't necessarily bad, but they've been significantly dumbed down; Matt once turned cliché into clever and cunning commentary--now they just lack personality and the clichés are just, well...cliché. On the bright side, ironically, "Eating Me Alive" has some "dog shitting razorblades"-worthy metaphors, except with a shark. Moreover, it's your call whether the "hole" in the "head" in "Piss and Vinegar" is a reference to "Old School Reasons."

Because of how disgustingly comprehensive and self-aware This Addiction is, it has an eerie "farewell" vibe. If this is the end of the line for the Trio, I wouldn't be entirely surprised. Let's hope that's not the case: This Addiction's potential is just as much a beginning as it is an end. I guess it depends on how you look at it.