Alkaline Trio
Damnesia


3.0
good

Review

by Richard Craig USER (120 Reviews)
July 12th, 2011 | 19 replies | 10,666 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A tentative foray into unfamiliar territory produces mixed results.

8 of 8 thought this review was well written

After fifteen years, dark hearted Chicagoans Alkaline Trio have firmly cemented themselves as one of the biggest names in punk rock. Throughout all of their seven studio albums they have consistently churned out music ranging from solid pop-punk/punk-rock, to classics within the genre. With a discography as consistent as theirs they are a band truly deserving of a retrospective collection, or ‘greatest hits’. On ‘Damnesia’ however, the band pass up merely compiling their best work in its original glory. Instead, they have chosen to rework twelve tracks from throughout their career in a semi-acoustic format with the subtle addition of strings, pianos and synths; and also include three new tracks in a similar theme. While it is commendable they are eschewing a lazy, simple selection process in favour of artistic progression, it ultimately raises the question: is it necessary?

Of course, with a back catalogue as consistent as theirs, and with their song writing abilities, the twelve reworked tracks are versatile enough to be moulded in different styles respectably. However, the pervading feeling on ‘Damnesia’ all too often is one of half-baked re-imagination. While not bad, the relatively basic acoustic versions of ‘Calling All Skeletons’, ‘Clavicle’ and ‘Private Eye’ feel particularly bland, and offer very little new. However, though similarly uninspired, the simplistic rendition of ‘Mercy Me’ benefits from the warm, rich sound of the acoustic guitars’ texturing. Furthermore, the matured croon and brilliant lyricism of Messrs Skiba and Andriano tend to rescue even ‘Damnesia’s more simplistic moments, as both vocalists have improved since last year’s ‘This Addiction’.

The three new tracks on ‘Damnesia’ suffer from similar problems, though they are enjoyable enough. ‘Olde English 800’ is a straightforward, acoustic ode to alcohol, and its cheery overtones give it an infectious nature; while ‘I Remember A Rooftop’ is a more forlorn tale of lovesickness delivered by Dan Andriano with only a guitar for company. The best of the three newbies though is their vibrant, whiskey-soaked cover of the Violent Femmes’ ‘I Held Her In My Arms’ – a genuinely fun, pop-punk number fully utilising acoustic guitars.

On ‘Damnesia’, Alkaline Trio are at their best when they are more ‘experimental’, giving old songs a new dimension. On ‘This Could Be Love’ the shrewd addition of pianos heightens the song’s sinister nature; while the distorted double bass in ‘We’ve Had Enough’ is an interesting focal point driving the song forward. The inclusion of the already-semi-acoustic ‘Every Thug Needs A Lady’ may seem a questionable, but ultimately its revamping with slight compositional changes; background piano lines and cute, tumbling guitar riffs pays off. Better yet is the dramatic reworking of ‘The American Scream’ with its miasmic synthesised chords painting a dark canvas over which staccato-ridden pianos build suspense even further.

Alkaline Trio should be very happy with their career so far. They have carved their own little niche in the world of pop-punk/punk-rock and their consistency over all these years has enabled them to maintain this position. However, until now their willingness to experiment has been somewhat lacking – although with their immediate realisation of potential so early in their career, who can blame them? Ultimately, ‘Damnesia’ is a tentative foray into unfamiliar territory and often the results are fairly uninspiring, sounding like lazily unchanged acoustic renditions of their dark punk-rock. However, the subtle tweaking of tracks such as ‘Every Thug Needs A Lady’ and the overwhelmingly pretty ‘You’ve Got So Far To Go’ salvage the album in elegant style. Furthermore, they suggest the ‘Trio have more skills at their disposal than captivating lyricism and power chord fury. Here’s to fifteen more years!



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user ratings (56)
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3.4
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other reviews of this album
blaisetheslayer (3)
Decent introduction to an important 90's/2000's pop punk band....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2011



49791 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

First half kills the second half

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Acanthus
July 12th 2011



9537 Comments


Still haven't streamed this, liked the review though.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

WashboardSuds
July 12th 2011



4984 Comments


weird I thought this would have more comments :/

interested in this

Digging: Acid Bath - When the Kite String Pops

Acanthus
July 12th 2011



9537 Comments


I posted the article over the stream yesterday, just other music has been keeping my attention. I also haven't listened to a lot of their discog, kinda want to hear the originals first.

craigy2
July 12th 2011



551 Comments


Acanthus, DEFINITELY check out the originals, they're way better than this. Goddamnit and Maybe I'll Catch Fire are their best albums, but they're all pretty great to be honest. I'm guessing the shitty pop-up player annoyed people too much, huh?

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 12th 2011



23798 Comments


my soundoff for this got deleted haha

"NEW RULE: every album that comes up as a pop-up ad on sputnik gets an automatic 1"

craigy2
July 12th 2011



551 Comments


i swear most albums that come up as pop-up ads on sputnik are a 1 anyway. excluding this

Acanthus
July 12th 2011



9537 Comments


The pop up player made it through Add Block Plus for a bit, then it soon disappeared.

I do plan on checking the originals out, as Remains is the only album I have by them but it rocks in it's own way.

dimsim3478
July 13th 2011



4735 Comments


Pos'd. This needs a four review to even out the odds.

Digging: My Psychoanalyst - Choreomania

Rawrz
July 13th 2011



145 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ive always wanted an acoustic Alkaline Trio album and was quite happy with the end results here. The only song I thought didnt really work was Calling All Skeletons since that song just sounds so much better full band.

dimsim3478
July 13th 2011



4735 Comments


I liked the acoustic version of that song, but yeah, the standard version works so much better.

craigy2
July 13th 2011



551 Comments


I think the standard version of most of these songs work much better to be honest. The main exceptions to this being 'The American Scream' and 'You've Got So Far To Go'. This DOES need a 4 review, and I'd be genuinely interested to see it. I'm also surprised there haven't been more reviews of this already.

dimsim3478
July 13th 2011



4735 Comments


I don't think I could really call any of the acoustic counterparts BETTER than their respective derived forms, but a lot of them do (at least) rival the original versions. I personally thought that the songs with Andriano on lead vocals don't work as well without electric guitars (especially "You've Got So Far To Go"), just 'cause his vocals are a lot more powerful than Matt's and the acoustic guitars don't really even out with Dan's vocals.

iamSeraph
July 17th 2011



857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good read. chill listen.

Digging: Everley - The Tyger and the Lamb

STDandALK3
July 28th 2011



15 Comments


great listen.. i love how they slowed down a lot of their old stuff and its just something we all know but refreshed and new

dimsim3478
July 29th 2011



4735 Comments


Really chill and thin stuff. Good for summer nights.

Lambda
April 11th 2012



2411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I love "Private Eye" on here. It's great.

Digging: Anathema - Judgement

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
March 12th 2013



19453 Comments


pretty good compilation. can't wait for the new album digging the new songs.

Digging: The Who - Tommy

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
May 22nd 2013



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not quite a Greatest Hits package, nor an acoustic LP, 'Damnesia' is an interesting compilation from Chicago punk rockers Alkaline Trio. Released on the 15th anniversary of the veteran trio; 12 reworked classics, 2 new tracks & a cover make up these 50 minutes. The vibe is comparable to the 90s "Unplugged" series, with stripped down arrangements containing alternate instrumentation. The results are mixed & played a little too safe, but ultimately the quality of the original songs shine through in most cases. It's just a shame that only 1 tune from 'Crimson' is here. Recommended Tracks: We've Had Enough, This Could Be Love, Mercy Me & The American Scream.



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