In the current wave of endless pop-punk stagnation, Alkaline trio are are a shining (red!) light, a band that have something more to offer than the bland, unorigninal chart-rimming boredom that bands like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte sh!t out on a regular basis. In all honesty, Alk3 are one of the very few bands today that are helping the genre to retain its dignity, through the medium of simple but catchy melodies, honest and heartfelt (yet not emo-cliched) lyricism, and that punk rock edge.
Turn the clock back 7 years or so, though, and they were just a bunch of teenagers who, having had limited local success with a string of self-released and indie-label-backed single and E.P. releases (which were later collected together on a self-titled compilation release), were heading into a studio to record their debut full-length album. "Goddamnit" is the fruit of their labours those 7 years ago, and to me, it still stands up as a solid album which can hold its own against the many brilliant works they've released since.
The line-up at the time consisted of...
Dan Andriano - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar.
Glenn Porter - Drums, Little Vocals.
Matt Skiba - Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar.
The band's recognisable dark lyrical style is present here, with such gems as "I was drinking you goodbye, A heart floats in the bay, From sour home Chicago, I hear it beating far away" ("San Fransisco"), "Tongue-tied, Bleeding from your eyes, Even Christ himself would cringe at the sight of your scars" ("Cringe"), "It's one or another between a rope and bottle, I can tell you're having trouble breathing" ("Trouble Breathing"), and "I wanna wake up next to you, Kissing the curve of your clavicle" ("Clavicle") among many others. Also, it seems that from the outset, the Trio had the vocal harmonies down to a tee, with both vocalists combining their efforts on many choruses, and trading lead vocals for more variety (although the Matt-fronted songs vastly outnumber Dan's on "Goddamnit" by 10 to 2!).
Something that became more of a rarity on later albums were the band's acoustic numbers, of which two are present here in the form of Dan's "Enjoy Your Day" and Matt's "Sorry About That," of which the latter is the better of the two, although it is endearing to hear Dan's youthful voice cracking occasionally (it seems he hadn't quite realised his singing potential back in '98!).
As usual, the guitar work on display is minimalist, sticking mainly to powerchords and higher one-string riffs, but never lacking in effectiveness or ear-pleasing ability. Dan's basslines are much more varied than those on the band's more recent albums, combining root note progressions that match Matt's guitaring with more complicated fills and mad fretboard runs. Glenn's drumming is exemplary, mainly due to his penchant for shoe-horning inventive fills exactly where you'd expect them, but also exactly where you wouldn't (!) amongst other simpler varied beats.
The production is the standard for independant label punk circa mid-to-late nineties, i.e. very raw, but with enough polish at the edges to make the mad collage of sounds coherent, and this sound quality complements the band's youthful, energetic, and honest approach to their music perfectly.
Highlights include opener "Cringe" with its pissed-off look at lost love, "San Fransisco"'s tale of drinking and homesickness, "Enjoy Your Day" for the amount of emotion Dan conveys in two-ish minutes of acoustic balladry, the romanticism of "Clavicle," "Trouble Breathing" with its story of a suicidal friend, and the closing acoustic mini-epic "Sorry About That."
Reviewing this as objectively as possible, I honestly cannot think of any downsides to "Goddamnit." Obviously some tracks are more memorable than others, as is the case with most albums, but there are no real duffers here. Possibly, you might find the album boring if you go in for musical wizardry and solos (like metal or prog), but then again, this band sit in my favourite 3 bands along with Strung Out and Children Of Bodom, despite lacking the musical finesse of those two bands, so even the lack of fret shredding isn't really an issue!
This album is only just short of perfect, in my opinion, which is why I am awarding it...