There is an old proverb that says to “Never judge a book by its cover”. These are wise words, especially in the music world; first impressions can often be inaccurate and simply dismissing something after a first listen can make you miss out on some great music if you’re not careful. However, with Alkaline Trio’s 2003 album, Good Mourning, there is a fair bit of knowledge that you can obtain just from looking at the album cover and the rest of the packaging. What you can deduce from the packaging of this particular album is fairly accurate as well. First of all, notice the colours: red and black – two pretty gothic
colours; the colour scheme also compliments the dark touch of burial crosses on hills surrounding the three figures on the front. The macabre artwork, and album title, are good indicators of what a lot of the lyrics are like; morbid, dark and death-involved. Then swing your attention to the three figures on the front: Matt Skiba, Dan Andriano and (at the time) the New Guy. That ‘New Guy’ was, or is, Derek Grant, Alkaline Trio’s drummer. And what a drummer he is! (at least for the [pop]punk genre) . His addition to the ‘Trio line up is important as it greatly improves many of the songs here. Many ‘old-school’ or ‘more dedicated’ fans of the band i.e. those who have been fans since the start of Alkaline Trio’s career, have become somewhat disillusioned with the band’s ‘change in sound’ over their last two albums (Good Mourning being the former of the two), but really this isn’t such a huge change, and frankly shouldn’t have upset people; however, it is a change nonetheless, and a good one that sees Alkaline Trio explore the darkness of their souls more actively than before.
The album starts out positively with the strong ‘This Could Be Love’
. The urgency of the opening riff contrasts Skiba’s deadpan vocals well, which are even more croaky than usual as he allegedly had a cold (or hangover, who knows!) whilst recording. It is similar to previous ‘Trio songs, only more controlled and with unique flourishes such as the tolling of bells during the last chorus that make cutting off an ex-lover’s fingers “one by one!” sound like the most cheerful thing you’ll ever do. The positive start is continued with lead single ‘We’ve Had Enough’
, opening with a quick drum roll and even more sinister bell tolls the song uses inventive and morbid lyrics such as “…fighting back the tears, and every urge to van Gogh both our ears” before name checking the Misfits’ (who were an obvious influence on the album’s lyrics) classic album ‘Walk Among Us’ in the chorus.
While Skiba’s voice isn’t in great condition throughout the album, although this isn’t a bad thing as it adds a rather nice touch to the album, fellow-vocalist Dan Andriano’s vocals are great as always. ‘Dan-songs’ i.e. one where Dan sings, are amongst the best on the album, although the ones where he sings are vastly outweighed by those that Matt sings. ‘Emma’
is a cheery sounding song with a catchy chorus but one would hesitate to label it pop-punk, as the lyrics are much too death-ridden for the mainstream. This is a recurring feature throughout ‘Good Mourning’ as the music is for the most part, pretty ‘happy-sounding’ and upbeat; however, this masks the grave lyrical topics which include murder, suicide, self-mutilation and intense fear. Due to the joyful nature of the accompanying music, it is often hard to take the lyrics too seriously – but that is not necessarily the point. They are still enjoyable and creative, and that is what counts here. There are perhaps two songs on the album where the mood of the music matches the lyrical content and that is in ‘All On Black’
and album ‘closer’ ‘Blue In The Face’
. The first of these two tracks is perhaps the slowest on the album, and allows Grant to show off his talent with long drum rolls. However, it is one of the weaker songs on the album as at times it is too slow and the contrasting moods between verse (depressive) and chorus (upbeat) don’t work particularly well together. The closer is an acoustic song, although the band have been known to perform it electric at gigs, where Matt sings, with his voice sounding rougher than on any song on the album. This is a good thing as it sounds as if it is cracking theatrically and gives a great effect to the song. Being an acoustic song, the lyrics are the focus-point here, and like the rest of the album, they don’t disappoint, with catchy refrains such as “And all that followed fell, like Mercury to Hell”.
On most editions of the album, that would be it after ‘Blue In The Face’
, but since us Brits are such cracking blokes, the ‘Trio have given us two bonus tracks that can now be found on recent B-Sides compilation ‘Remains’. The better of the two being ‘Old School Reasons’
, which in fact is arguably the best song on the album overall as it has some of the best ‘shouty’ lyrics on the album and includes both Matt and Dan singing equally, and Matt gives the best vocal performance on the album as he was obviously not yet suffering from sickness when the song was recorded. ‘Dead End Road’
is nowhere near as good, despite having some great stop-start guitar parts and great bridge, where only the bass and drums play and Matt’s voice drops down to a whisper before reaching his normal dynamic level again.
There are some great songs on ‘Good Mourning’ but unfortunately the album is let down by what lets down many (pop) punk albums, and that is a weak middle section. The first few tracks on the album are awesome, as are the lost song plus the two bonus tracks, but in between them there is a dip in quality and it drags down the overall quality of the album. The semi-acoustic ‘Every Thug Needs A Lady’
is an example of this dip in quality as the chorus is not great by any means, although some gentle, decorative guitar parts in the verse make up for this a little. ‘Fatally Yours’
is as close to the ‘Goddamnit’/‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’ days as this album gets and while it is an enjoyably chaotic 2 minute punk thrash it doesn’t compare to other songs on the album in terms of creativity and this lets down what could have been a great song.
Overall, ‘Good Mourning’ could have came close to punk rock perfection, but some choice songs in the middle of the album let it down and prevent this from happening. Nevertheless, ‘Good Mourning’ does have some excellent songs on it and these are some which are amongst the best ‘Trio have ever recorded. The band has always had great drummers, especially within the confines of the punk rock genre, but Derek Grant is the best yet and his technical ability and creativity add plenty to the album, and improve the overall quality of the album. ‘Good Mourning’ is a great album, that is not particularly better or worse than any other of their albums but is still unique while still being unmistakeably an ALK3 album; basically if you like other Alkaline Trio albums you should like this one as well. This is the first album where ‘Trio really embraced the dark side of life, or more accurately, death, staying clear of lyrical topics such as alcoholism and love (unless it eventually involved killing that special someone) and this allowed them to be even more creative with their lyrics, which were generally done really well, as was all the other aspects of the album, in particular, the drumming. Their successes in all of the necessary fields make this a great album, and another worthy purchase for anyone into, or looking to get into Alkaline Trio.