Review Summary: Bless them, dark father, for they seem to be thoroughly incapable of making a bad album.
Ask a member of the ‘older generation’ of Alkaline Trio fans and they may very well tell you that the band has experienced something of a decline in recent years. They may tell you that the band peaked ten years ago with the release of ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’ and have been going nose over tail ever since. They may tell you that this change in fortunes only happened more recently - perhaps after the release of ‘Good Mourning’ in 2005. Regardless of such opinions, there is a definite and noticeable change in the bands style, ‘vibe’, and some would argue in quality, between the Trio’s first four albums and their most recent efforts. At their best the band have been known for their uncanny ability to ‘connect’ with their audience, creating songs that are meaningful and enduring, as well as darkly unique within the punk genre. When they’re not at their best they’ve still been able to write tightly constructed pop-punk songs that can still be very enjoyable. Six albums in and Alkaline Trio were yet to make a bad album that truly makes you cringe – 2010 saw their seventh studio album, ‘This Addiction’ which continued their streak of reliability.
‘This Addiction’ was preceded by claims that it would be a return to the style of their first two albums. Considering the reverence that many fans- especially those sporting heart & skull tattoos -feel towards these albums, this was indeed a very bold statement to make. Therefore, the big question surrounding this album is how does it compare to what many consider as the punk-rock/pop-punk classics, ‘Goddamnit’ and ‘Maybe I’ll Catch Fire’?
Well, firstly it must be pointed out that the main factor that made those albums so successful was how relatable they were lyrically. Blunt and usually bitter songs about love, hate, life, death and alcoholism were what was on offer in 1998 and 2000, and to a certain extent that is replicated here. Drug and alcohol-related metaphors for love, misery and bitterness litter the album, as does the intricate wordplay that has frequented so many of their songs over the years. This wordplay is present in the carefully constructed ‘Off The Map’
(I loosen my lips and the truth slips out/ A free ride on a forked tongue/ The twine of trust is unspun) and the ironically joyous sing-a-long ‘The American Scream’
(All the time they thought they’re rooting for the home team/ As they’re sent into the game and torn apart). Meanwhile one needn’t look further than the barnstorming title track for a better example of drug use being used as a metaphor for love – as catchy as the common cold, it gallops along without pausing for breath serving as a perfect opener for this album.
Musically the album is very strong, if not a little conservative at times. It has a similar production to their last album ‘Agony & Irony’, though ‘This Addiction’ feels fuller and slightly more polished – not overly so, though. ‘This Addiction’
, ‘Dine, Dine My Darling’
see the ‘Trio sticking largely to what they know, with power chords-a-plenty, big choruses and lots of energy – though arguably not as much emotion as earlier material. It is the departures from their staple punk-rock sound however, that are the most interesting moments on the album. The uncharacteristically upbeat‘Lead Poisoning’
includes the band’s first trumpet solo and bares a strong resemblance to NOFX’s more ska-orientated moments; while at the other end of the spectrum, the sparse guitar melodies and reliably fantastic drums of ‘Dead On The Floor’
demonstrate the band’s maturity very well indeed. However, it is the closer ‘Fine’
that is the pinnacle of the album, not only musically but lyrically too. The delicately picked guitars, tumbling drums and distant chiming of bells beautifully compliment Dan Andriano’s aching croon of “It’s gonna hurt like hell when you pull back the hammer and fire/ But I’m fine, I’m fine”.
‘This Addiction’ is arguably the best album of the second half of Alkaline Trio’s career. It includes some frankly brilliant songs that have already proven to be more than capable of sitting in nicely alongside the classics in a ‘Trio setlist. ‘This Addiction’, ‘The American Scream’ and ‘Off The Map’ in particular stand out, while ‘Fine’ genuinely rivals old favourites such as ‘Sorry About That’ and ‘Radio’ as an album closer. However, on the whole the album generally lacks the meaningfulness of their earlier work, and the disposable synths and lack of substance in ‘Draculina’
and ‘Eating Me Alive’
will only alienate older fans. Nevertheless, ‘This Addiction’ is still a solid album, and a worthwhile addition to the ‘Trio’s discography – it’s just not the return to form that was promised, though it is arguably better than both ‘Crimson’ and ‘Agony & Irony’.