Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

Alkaline Trio

Is This Thing Cursed?

Alkaline Trio - 'Is This Thing Cursed?'
Epitaph Records  •  Aug 31st, 2018
First Impression
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This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on August 29th, 2018. I’ve decided to make it free to all users of the website. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.

I figured with the album coming out on Friday this was really the last time I had to try and get some early thoughts down on this album for everyone before you’ll be able to hear it. Hell, there’s always the chance this leaks while I’m typing this up. Then everyone can join in with me.

At a high-level, this album works for me more than any of their albums have since Crimson. I’ve liked the stuff that followed, but it never really captured that same magic as their earlier work. I would find myself listening to them for a few weeks (with the exception of This Addiction, which never really grabbed me), but after that, when I wanted an Alkaline Trio fix, I’d go back to Crimson or something before it. That’s just how it played out for me. I can’t predict with certainty that this is going to be an album I come back to in the future, but there’s something about it that hits me just right and gives me that feeling. There’s an energy here, a feeling of immediacy that they touched on with My Shame is True, but one that feels much more rolled into a “classic” Alkaline Trio-sounding album. This urgency to the songs is really resonating with me at the moment.

There’s some stuff I don’t love, and I’ll touch on that as I go through the album, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.

As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, this isn’t really a review as much as it is just me listening to the album, writing some thoughts down, and speaking off the cuff about what I like, don’t like, and the over all impression the album gives me.

Feel free to jump in with questions or anything you’d like to know more on, I can always expand and offer more thoughts and such.

Is This Thing Cursed?

2:28pmThe album begins with three songs you all have probably heard by now. Which always makes something like this a little funny, because we’re waiting like 15 minutes until we get to some new material. So, I’m going to be brief on the first three for that reason.

The main thing about this song is that I think it’s a really great opener for the album. Not only does it give you a feel for where the album as a whole is going, similar sounds/melodies/pacing, I think that it sets up the theme of the album (duh, it’s the title track) in a way that sets the mood for where we go from there.

Blackbird

2:33pmWhen I first heard this song I was like “holy shit, yes, Alk3 are back,” and I really liked the energy it brought. It kinda reminded me of a more modern “Private Eye.” It made me remember that I loved this band in the early 2000s, and a little sad that I hadn’t spent as much time with them in the past 10 years as I maybe should had, or wanted to. With that said, I’ve now decided I think this isn’t one of my favorite songs on the album. I don’t dislike it, it’s just that we’re blessed with better.

What this does do for those that have heard the album is give a good indication on the production style. The album has this raw feel, it gets a little muddy sometimes, but, to my ears, I like how it sounds. I think this is what a lot of people want a “rock” album to sound like in 2018. You hear the guitars. Vocals are turned up. It’s compressed, but in a familiar way, and there’s not a whole lot of extraneous stuff going on.

Demon and Division

2:37pmThis is one of my favorites from the album. That melody excites me. I love that it walks between this little mid-tempo place and a killer chorus. It’s really right in line with the kinda music I want from this band. It’s dark and yet secretly really catchy.

That’s the thing with Alkaline Trio, they go to some dark places, but they have to walk it in a way where it doesn’t feel so over the top that you roll your eyes. When they do that well, it’s what elevates them above all the copy-cats. The lyrics and how either of the two singers emotes is such a key ingredient to this band.

Little Help

2:42pmThis is my least favorite song on the album. It reminds me of something that could have been on the previous album, with a fast punk-rock sort of sound. Throwback to the 80s and dive bars. But, if I had to cut one song, it would be this one. It doesn’t feel like it fits in with the rest of the album. It feels out of place to me on subsequent listens. I think that’s because I know what I’d consider “better” songs are coming. But, it may also be that the repeated refrain, “does anyone know where I can go get high?” — while catchy and very Social Distortion sounding — doesn’t do much for me.

Dan sounds good though. I like Matt’s background vocals too. I like that the band lets both of them shine on this album. They’re used together in enough of the songs that for the first time I actually have trouble hearing/remembering/picking out who is singing what. It’s not as “here’s Dan’s song, and here’s Matt’s song” as it has been in the past. I like that. It leads to a really cohesive album in that regard.

I Can’t Believe

2:46pmThat little rolling guitar and drum intro is just classic Trio to me. It reminds me of the first time I heard From Here to Infirmary, and it felt familiar, but in a new unique way.

“I can’t believe, anything that you’re saying to me, I just can’t see how you ever dreamed this was for the best…”

2:50pm

“I just don’t see how the fuck you could ever think that I’d agree.”

Heh. Some good Matt being Matt lyrics on this one. Earlier, after one listen to this album, I said that it felt like a pop-punk album for 30 year olds. To me that’s from something like this next stretch of songs. There’s an underlying pop-punk/rock sound to the music, but it’s got a clear bend away from what we’ve seen Sum 41, Blink, and Green Day do with their past few albums.

“Nothing to see here, move along … nobody to hear your black swan song.”

Sweet Vampires

2:59pmThis has become one of my stand-out favorites on the album. I could see it becoming one of my favorites in the band’s discography with time as well. To me, this is what I’ve wanted the band to play with more since Crimson. I wouldn’t call it an experimental song, but I would say that it gets to do more than a lot of the others.

It opens with a nice little guitar riff. And the opening melody gets stuck in my head in the same way something like “This Could Be Love” becomes so damn hummable.

“I was the live fast, car crash, Mulholland Drive, open the flood gates, this love hate(?) is making me cry, the tears feel the tug of the blood from your wrists that night. If we should live forever, like sweet vampires … ”

3:02pmThe bridge is great. Really love the use of vocals and the lyrics are pure spite.

3:05pm”If we should live forever, like sweet vampires/we could reign together, our own empire/now we should try to sever all our past ties.”

I can picture this being sung by a lot of people in complete seriousness, and I kinda love it. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about the Alkaline Trio melodrama, and the ability to use what some could call silly lyrics — we’re talking about vampires here — but when they wrap it in a catchy package and sing with sincerity, it works even when it probably shouldn’t. And that’s the definitive Alkaline Trio to me.

Pale Blue Ribbon

3:06pmGreat gym song. Fast and a toe tapping ditty. Dan at the front again.

3:07pm”We’re supposed to bleed sometimes, we’ll make these scars together.”

3:08pmThis one goes by fast. Barely two minutes.

Goodbye Fire Island

3:07pmI can’t hear this song and not think about the Fyre Festival.

3:08pmAnother song that gives me Good Mourning/Crimson vibes. Where they come in strong with the guitars, then pull back, just a little, to calmly deliver the lines.

3:10pm”Dowse my house in gasoline, strike a match and walk a…wayyyyy…yeah.”

I love the little “hey yah” part in the chorus. Great chorus.

“Ocean filled with plastic bottles … heyyyyyy yah … and tidal waves will wash us all away. Wash us all awayyyyyyy.”

3:11pm”Feed me pills and happy meals.”

3:12pmGood song is good.

Stay

3:16pmThis is a slower, confessional, song. But, it’s also become one of my favorites. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but it grew on me more than almost any other. The main theme of the song makes me think of a few things in my personal life that I’m … well … I’m glad it doesn’t resonate on that level right now, that’s for sure.

“We could never break up, so I’ll love you to death, the man I’ve become was so comfortably dumb.”

3:18pm”Let’s take another day to call it quits and walk away, let’s find some other time to break down.”

3:19pm(PSA: Leave bad and toxic relationships. Heh.)

Heart Attacks

3:22pmSince the album leaked in the middle of this (man, what a weird prediction to have come true), I’m gonna speed through the next couple before I head to the gym, then I’ll come back and we can talk more about the album after people have spun it once or twice. This track reminds me of From Here to Infirmary.

Worn So Thin

3:23pm I think this should have replaced “Little Help” earlier in the track listing. I think it works a whole lot better and fits the same vibe that that song was going for.

Throw Me to the Lions

3:24pmThe kind of song that Alkaline Trio seems to be able to write in their sleep. They’ve done songs like this before. They’ve done a few better, quite a lot worse. Matt’s lyrics shine.

Krystalline

3:26pmI think this is the best song on the record. I’ve fallen more for it every time I hear it. I think anyone that’s ever been in any kind of relationship can smile at this one.

“Kissed away our memories, fucked away the pain, went out for some coffee, and then we did it all again.”

3:29pmThe track ends and we get some fun little noises to close out the album. There’s just something so simple about the song, and the relatable lyrics, that close off the album so perfectly. A perfectly relatable, sing-a-long-able, song. Can’t really ask for much more than that.

3:31pmAlkaline Trio are a band that I’ve always really liked, but never considered a “favorite.” They were a band I loved to listen to, really enjoyed their first batch of albums, but they never hit me in the same way as they did other fans. After Crimson I considered myself even more of just a casual fan. However, I have to say, I really like this album. It’s brought me back in and reminded me why I used to spend so many nights air-guitaring to “Stupid Kid.”

Now that the album is out there, and will be in stores on Friday, I’m curious to read thoughts from other people. I wanna know what everyone thinks works and doesn’t work, favorite songs, and all that.

3:32pmI recommend giving this one at least 2-3 spins. It was that third spin for me, while on the treadmill, that everything clicked just right. That’s when I went from liking it to elevating it up with some of their best.

Jason Tate
Jason Tate Jason Tate is the founder and editor-in-chief of chorus.fm. He can also be found at @jason_tate on Twitter and on Facebook.
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