“This is so bad.”
“This is my least favorite record by them.”
“They’re dead to me.”
“Maybe they should just break up.”
These were just some of the general reactions to Alkaline Trio’s 2005 release, Crimson. Many longtime fans of the band disliked it; they didn’t like the dynamics, the vibe, the atmosphere. It was “too goth.” The list continues. Quite frankly, this very reviewer enjoyedCrimson, sure it wasn’t their best work, but it was far from horrible. Now three years have passed, and the Chicago punk vets are back with their sixth studio album and Epic debut, Agony & Irony. But has three years been enough for fans to forget the bitter taste of Crimson?
Agony & Irony is somewhat a return to simplicity for the band. Some of the strings and orchestration used in Crimson are less prevalent and the band just rocks out. Opening track, “Calling All Skeletons” gets the party started with handclaps and big vocals from Matt Skiba. The chorus is contagious and will be in your head for hours. The first single, “Help Me,” features driving verses and a bouncy pre-chorus, and even though the chorus remotely sounds like The Cardigans’ “Love Fool,” it still works. “In Vein” has a nice choppy feel to it, with guitars that needle in and out and Dan Andriano providing the vocal backbone. The drumming from Derek Grant is also superb.
“Over And Out” is classic Trio, with Skiba solemn vocals pacing the verses, while “Do You Wanna Know?” features big guitars, a nice falsetto from Andriano, and perhaps the best chorus on the entire album. “Love Love, Kiss Kiss” may turn off fans initially, but eventually it grows on you like moss, and you may hate yourself for reciting the chorus over and over mere hours later.
The Trio save their best for last, as the final three tracks finish out the album in high fashion. “Lost And Rendered” is a frantic rocker, channeling a “Good Mourning” vibe throughout. “Ruin It” starts with static and a menacing guitar riff from Skiba, while Andriano pleads for you stick around for his “best day.” Closer “Into The Night” packs a punch. It’s everything you want in an Alkaline Trio track: fast, sharp, and to the point, quite the difference from the slow, dramatic “Smoke,” which closed Crimson.
In the end, will some fans be disappointed? Probably, but these are the people who wish Alkaline Trio would have written 10 Goddamnit’s in a row instead of progressing and expanding their sound. Regardless, Agony & Irony is a major improvement from Crimson; it’s instantly catchy and features all your favorite aspects of the band. While at the times the lyrics are subpar, the album still delivers, as it is one of the perfect punk rock albums to blast from your stereo for the remainder of summer.