Pop punk was taking the world by storm in 2001. Blink-182, Green Day and The Offspring were some of the biggest punk bands around, while groups like New Found Glory and Good Charlotte started to make a name for themselves in 2000. It was no coincidence that Alkaline Trio, a three piece punk band from Chicago, decided to lean into a poppier sound on their third LP, From Here to Infirmary. Some viewed this record as a “sell out”, but it quickly became clear this type of punk was the type of music they were meant to be playing.
While another band with dual singers was gearing up to release Take Off Your Pants and Jacket 20 years ago (Ironically, 20 years later Skiba is now a member of Blink-182), Alkaline Trio – consisting of singer/guitarist Matt Skiba, singer/bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Mike Felumlee (who left the band in 2001 and was replaced by current drummer Derek Grant – dropped what still remains their most complete record as a band.
From Here to Infirmary tackled themes of heartbreak, drug and alcohol abuse and loneliness, all of which were not unfamiliar territories for punk bands in the early 2000s. While this album clearly showed the band was making a move towards a pop punk sound with more melodies and harmonies, it’s the band’s lyricism that made them stand out from what other bands were doing at the time.
Throughout the record, Skiba uniquely found a way to deliver clever lyrics in a way that perfectly matched the tone of each track. This happens right off the bat on the album opener, “Private Eye.” The song comes from the perspective of someone with extreme paranoia and this isn’t lost on the listener. Skiba manically delivers each line and paints a clear picture in your mind with his words. Take the second verse, where Skiba sings “New Year’s Eve was as boring as heaven / I watched flies fuck on channel 11 / There was no one to kiss, there was nothing to drink/ Except some old rotten milk someone left in the sink.”
Memorable lyrics that find a way to latch onto your brain were just getting started with Track 1. From admitting to being “drunker than a skunk” following a breakup on “Steamer Trunk” to the quick-witted “Cause if assholes could fly / This place would be busier than O’Hare” on “You’re Dead”, Skiba had these little quips littered throughout all of his songs and they can either put a smile on your face or haunt you 20 years later.
Aside from clever songwriting, Skiba helped make fun, fast-paced punk rock songs on From Here to Infirmary.
“Stupid Kid” was an anthem for bitter teens going through a breakups in 2001 and it still deserves a spot on any heartbreak playlist. Back in the day, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you stumbled upon an angsty AOL away message with Skiba’s lyrics of “Remember when I said I love you? / Well, forget it, I take it back/ I was just a stupid kid back then/ I take back every word that I said.”
There’s also “Armageddon”, which comes at you like a stampede, as Skiba delivers each line in a way that perfectly blends in with the speedy guitar riffs and heart-pounding drums surrounding him. The track hits you like a strong cup of coffee, leaving you ready to take on the world. It also helped young gamers like myself get motivated for the final skate-off against Eric in Tony Hawk’s Underground two years after this album came out…
While Skiba’s performance on From Here to Infirmary is memorable, he’s not the only one who brought their “A” game on the record.
Bass player Dan Andriano has always been an underrated artist to me and this was especially true in 2001. Where Skiba’s words stand out on the tracks he fronts, Andriano has great lyrical moments of his own and he has a singing style that makes your ears perk up. Whether he’s delivering catchy “hellos” and an epic outro on “Take Lots With Medicine” or the earworm shouts of “Did I? Did I?” on “I’m Dying Tomorrow”, he has countless moments you can’t help but sing or hum along to throughout the record.
However, Andriano is at his best when he’s delivering some of the most powerful moments on the album. On “Another Innocent Girl”, Andriano is able to portray the pain of trying to be strong when there’s so much hurt underneath. This is very clear when he sings “He likes to pretend that he’s all sewn up / It makes for a much stronger case/ But there is blood underneath that skin/ That scar is not so easy to erase.” All of these feelings later come to a head in one of the most memorable choruses on the album.
Andriano’s finest moment is on the album closer, “Crawl.” Not only does his bass play a major role in helping carry the song, but his words help put a bow on a great album. He crawls his way through each verse, before the song builds to a bitter, yet unforgettable, chorus. Andriano belts out, “Never had a drink that I didn’t like / Got a taste of you, threw up all night,” before the album concludes with another moment of heartbreak. (Side note: in addition to putting an exclamation point on a great record, there’s also a great version of this song Andriano performs with Brian Fallon that you should check out if you’ve never heard it before)
In their 25 years as a band, Alkaline Trio have built up an impressive discography and you can make an argument for a handful of their albums to be their best. Some would say their first full length, 1998’s Goddamnit is their greatest. You’ll probably also hear 2003’s Good Mourning and 2005’s Crimson mentioned as well (quite the…trio…these two and From Here to Infirmary are huh?…sorry). This Addiction is another one that has a special place in my heart as well.
However, from here is where they nailed down a formula for who they are as a band and this sound is what would carry them forward through the 2000s and 2010s. They make clever punk rock with lyrics that aren’t corny or overly emotional. Alkaline Trio have mostly stayed true to this persona and because of this, they still remain a band who put out solid records; when Skiba isn’t too busy with Blink-182 that is.