Alkaline Trio aren’t the first band to trade in the electric guitar for an acoustic one and release stripped down material – bands such as Against Me!, Moneen, and Saves The Day are a few that come to mind. But I can’t think of many bands who’ve released an entire album full of re-worked, semi-acoustic versions of fan favorites from albums past. That’s what makes Damnesia somewhat unique – this isn’t your normal “greatest hits” compilation. There are 15 tracks on Damnesia – 12 “classic” tracks, 2 new ones, and a cover – and on each one the Trio attempts to bring something new to the song through these re-imaginings.
Some of the tracks are just your basic acoustic renditions, such as “Calling All Skeletons” and “Clavicle,” but those tracks don’t falter because of it, mainly because of the solid songwriting from years ago. The two new tracks are classic Trio. Matt Skiba shines on “Olde English 800,” a short yet infectious sing-along dedicated to the joys of alcohol, while the lovesick “I Remember A Rooftop” features Dan Andriano at his very best.
The tracks that stand out the most though are the ones that include minor tweaks here and there. The double-bass kick of “We’ve Had Enough” gives it new life, and horns and percussion intensify the ominous nature of “Private Eye.” The eerie piano chords of “The American Scream” adds another layer of darkness to an already grim track, while “Mercy Me” maintains its original energy while adding some rich texture. The band pours on the twang with their cover of the Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her In My Arms,” while “Nose Over Tail” does its very best to recapture the intensity of the original. The album closes spectacularly with Skiba’s passionate arrangement of “Radio,” ending Damnesia on an intimate note.
While an album consisting mainly of new-old songs may seem unnecessary, at the end of the day, Alkaline Trio succeeded in what they were trying to accomplish – giving something cool back to its longtime fans. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many Trio fans unhappy with this release. Of course, some tracks come across as bland (“Every Thug Needs A Lady” and “Blue In the Face” for example) and the fact that they didn’t experiment more on some tracks is disappointing. But for the most part, Alkaline Trio knocked it out of the park, creating a new playlist of songs for you and your friends to drunkenly sing along to in the future. If anything, Damnesia satiates the appetite fans have for new material (as well as washing away the disappointing taste of 2010’s This Addiction) while proving that an old band can still do new tricks.