Always the sullen-looking guys hanging out on the fringe of the party while the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day frolicked in the pool, Alkaline Trio brought a downtrodden weariness to the sometimes frat-boy arena of pop-punk. Adrift in a murky adult world of empty bottles, femme fatales and unidentified corpses, the anthemic songwriting chops of guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Adriano had many consider them to be the natural heirs to The Misfits’ blackened crowns of punk.
Following a series of home runs from 1999’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire until Crimson (2005), the trio subsequently drifted through a series of patchy albums which flirted with New Wave and gothier touches, but which seemed to lack real commitment. More recently, Matt Skiba has been fulfilling Tom DeLonge’s role in Blink-182, and if these extra demands have refocussed minds, Is This Thing Cursed? succeeds in recapturing much of their initial spirit.
Written entirely in the studio, these 13 tracks have a punch that has been MIA for some time. The music itself remains ostensibly the same, but the results are short and snappy (only one track hits the four minute mark) and delivered with a genuine élan. The (so integral) vocal interplay between Adriano and Skiba on the title track and ‘Demon and Division’ symbolises this rebirth; it’s as if two best friends have reconnected and remembered what it was they enjoyed about each other’s company in the first place. ‘Little Help’ is corny as hell, but it’s another of Adriano’s enervating anthems that will have you raising a glass to this successful return from the shadows.