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“Addiction” to Alkaline Trio rewards loyal fans

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(Courtesy Epitaph Records)

Alkaline Trio fans, rejoice! The band has officially released its latest album, “This Addiction,” today and, to the delight of many followers, seems to be returning to its old ways. However, if you downloaded your pre-release last week, you already know that.

“This Addiction” is the Trio’s seventh full-length release. Its sound is a step backwards from the group’s last release, “Agony and Irony,” in 2008. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba sings most songs, while bassist/singer Dan Andriano sings only three. Fans refer to these as “Matt songs” and “Dan songs,” respectively.

It is in Skiba’s songs that the band’s sound is similar to its first recordings – songs about heartbreak and drinking, sprinkled with Satanic imagery (Skiba and drummer Derek Grant are members of the Church of Satan).

While it may appear to be an attempt to win back fans the group lost when their sound began to change, the reality is that Skiba spent the entire song-writing process for “This Addiction” in a drunk and heartbroken state; in a recent interview, he stated that his marriage “started to fall apart” and that he and his wife were divorced. He also suffered the death of a close friend. The return to the Trio’s old sound is fully authentic.

Andriano’s songs, on the other hand, continue to be happy and seem to be written about his love for his wife.

Several of the songs on the new album have a common theme: the ocean. They feature phrases like “the black sea of our love,” and the recurring topic makes the record more cohesive.

The first track, “This Addiction,” is the current single from the album. The song is a clear indication of the band’s – or at least Skiba’s – return to early Alkaline Trio style. The music is fast and gives the listener the idea that the song may be a hopeful one – until Skiba starts singing about heroin and methadones. Andriano adds harmonies to the chorus.

Andriano’s first track, “Dine, Dine My Darling,” is a quintessential “Dan song.” Andriano is admired not only as a bassist, but also for his unique voice and perfect pitch. For anyone picking up “This Addiction” as their first Trio album, they will get a perfect introduction to Andriano’s stylings, and this is a great first song of his to hear.

Following Andriano’s upbeat “Dine, Dine My Darling” is Skiba’s “Lead Poisoning.” For the most part, this song is solid – until the trumpet comes in during a later chorus. The instrument sounds interesting, and pleases the ear, but seems randomly placed. It appears for a few brief seconds in only one part of the song. Other than that, though, this is an upbeat-sounding Skiba song.

Then comes “Dead on the Floor.” Skiba sings about how he was once hopeful about his marriage but that it was a means to an end, saying that it was “way too good to be.” He makes it clear that he is heartbroken, repeating that his heart is “falling like snow” over and over again.

“The American Scream” opens up sounding eerily similar to the opening of “This Addiction,” but makes up for it with catchy lyrics and images of Skiba lying dead in his own blood in a cemetery.

“Off The Map” is arguably one of the best songs Andriano has ever written, and it continues with the ocean theme that he has also used in songs on previous releases.

Skiba’s “Draculina” features even more Satanic imagery, but has a confusing opening: “What ever happened to Wonderland, and where’d Alice go?” The topic is never clarified, only repeated between verses of a completely unrelated topic. That is, unless Draculina is a little-known character in Lewis Carroll’s classic.

“Eating Me Alive” is easily one of the best songs Skiba performs on the album. Its harmonies are impressive, and it has a light coat of synthesizers, making it sound only slightly like it could have been released on Alkaline Trio’s 2005 album, “Crimson.”

Next is the song “Piss and Vinegar,” though the title does not work well with the song. The phrase “full of piss and vinegar” means “full of youthful energy,” which Skiba’s lyrics are lacking. Regardless, the song is composed nicely and sounds similar to older Trio songs.

Skiba’s last song on the album, “Dorothy,” opens up hard and fast, and may be written about his wife, but it is unclear. Skiba sings, “Oh Dorothy, I’m coming home, I hope you’re waiting there / I know times have been tough on you, it’s all downhill from here.” Listeners are led to believe this could be written about the downfall of Skiba’s marriage – his wife’s name replaced with another.

Thankfully, the album ends on a hopeful note with Andriano’s “Fine.” The song seems to be for Skiba, perhaps conveying that he will indeed be fine: “It’s going to rain like this for days, I’m going to drown in my old ways / But I’m fine, I’m fine.” Needless to say, it’s nice to finish listening to the album feeling less miserable than Skiba’s songs feel.

“This Addiction” is sure to be a hit among fans. The mix of Skiba’s old-school Trio songs and Andriano’s new-school love songs flows almost perfectly, and the group’s continued use of harmonies makes it sound like the new Trio and the old Trio have become one.

This album is absolutely worth listening to, whether you’re a longtime fan of Alkaline Trio or not. It is on sale today, and a deluxe edition is also available.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at erulonmi@student.umass.edu.

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