Review Summary: Old guys make great music.This Addiction
felt like a dead end of sorts for a band that had been making pop-punk for 15 years to varying degrees of success. An homage to the group’s third album From Here To Infirmary, This Addiction
was an uninspired mess, its biggest sin being that it’s a pop-punk record that isn’t catchy. Alkaline Trio could have easily thrown in the towel after so many bands do once they become a parody of themselves. But they didn’t, three years later they put out My Shame is True,
an improvement no doubt, but still disappointing, laden with immature breakup lyrics and repetitive guitar playing. And then Matt Skiba joins Blink-182. Dan starts putting out solo records, great in their own right, and Matt helps craft one of the worst albums of the decade with Blink. Years go by and it seems like Alkaline Trio is toast, a familiar tale - a great band from the 90s that couldn’t get it done into the 2010s. But a band that put out stone cold classics like Goddamnit
and Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
couldn’t go out with a whimper, they couldn’t fade away with redemption up for grabs. Some dead ends aren’t dead after all as Alkaline Trio is back with their best album in 15 years.
Similar to how The Menzingers’ After The Party
from last year was an exercise in figuring out how to live when you enter your 30s, Is This Thing Cursed❓
Is about being comfortable in your 40s. When Dan laments “Can anybody here buy this old fool a drink❓ / It sure beats waiting on the next train / Back to that old scene, I leave it behind” he means it, it’s delivered with conviction. And when Matt croons “Couldn’t tell what you were thinking, the night I turned up at the bar / I told you I quit drinking and you laughed 'til you saw stars”, he’s proud of it, and that’s what separates inspired and contemplative music from disingenuous trash - brutal honesty. The music itself is the most mature the band has ever created. The songwriting feels relaxed, the structures are tight, but they know what their bread and butter are - power chords and catchy melodies, and Alkaline Trio delivers. Is This Thing Cursed❓
Is that special kind of record that fully owns everything the band has ever done. Familiar melodies are abundant, but never to the point of rehash, Is This Thing Cursed❓
is equally dark and delectable, a best of both worlds of the bands’ dreary, and commercial halves.
One couldn’t ask for a more impressive record from a trio of pop-punk dudes in their 40s. Dan Andriano especially is a fucking saint. His cuts have consistently been the saving grace on the band’s lesser records, here they’re phenomenal and are the major reason this album is one of the band’s finest. “Stay,” with its swooning guitar and bittersweet reflective lyrics packs an emotional wallop and “Worn So Thin” displays a ferocious energy not seen since Goddamnit. Matt Skiba’s acoustic ballad “Krystalline” caps it all off, a beautiful song about awkward new love during middle age. Is This Thing Cursed❓
is pop-punk perfection from front to back. It’s the last piece of evidence needed to cement Alkaline Trio as legends. I’m not sure where they go from here, unsure if this could be the last Trio record, but I’m happy knowing they took it this far.