For some reason, Alkaline Trio falls into this weird “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” area with their legion of fans. Whenever the band experiments with its sound (Crimson, Agony & Irony), fans complain that it doesn’t sound like the band’s previous material. So when the Trio writes an album that’s a throwback of sorts (its last full-lengthThis Addiction), fans whine about it not being as good as From Here To The Infirmary or Goddammit. The band can’t win. Fortunately, this hasn’t ever deterred the band from writing what they deem to be the best Alkaline Trio songs. On its second proper Epitaph full-length, the band headed to the Blasting Room to work with legendary producer Bill Stevenson for (surprisingly) the first time in its career. The result is My Shame Is True, the Trio’s tightest collection of songs since 2003’s Good Mourning.
Working with Stevenson created a loose and efficient recording environment, with vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba getting the chance to jam with one of his heroes. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that My Shame Is True features some of Skiba’s best Trio work in a while. He’s written some of his catchiest songs yet; from the driving “I Wanna Be A Warhol” (its tinge of synth setting it over the top) to emphatic fist-pumper “The Torture Doctor” (whose chorus will undoubtedly evoke Good Mourning comparisons).
My Shame Is True also contains some of Skiba’s most vulnerable lyrics, as the album is a love letter/apology of sorts to his ex-girlfriend (that’s her on the cover). The remorseful “Kiss You To Death” features a charging melody that’s reminiscent of This Addiction; the melodic “One Last Dance” has Skiba asking for atonement (“There just ain’t words to say how sorry I am, for acting like a school boy trapped in a man, there’s nothing I won’t do for one last chance, may I have this dance?”). While a lot of his songs contain a lot of metaphor, it’s nothing but up-front honesty as he lays it all out on closer “Until Death Do Us Part” – an emotional gut-punch reminiscent of fan-favorite “Radio.” It’s not all apologies however, as the morbid “The Temptation Of St. Anthony” chugs along to Derek Grant’s superb drumming, culminating as one of the album’s strongest cuts.
While My Shame Is True is mainly a Skiba-dominated affair, vocalist/bassist Dan Andriano continues to serve up some of the most solid songs of his career. The gothic “I’m Only Here To Disappoint” features a ripper of a chorus, while the blistering “I, Pessimist” is two minutes of pure punk rock euphoria. Andriano and Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath trade vocal barbs back and forth on one of the most fun Alkaline Trio songs in recent memory. And just like his band mate, Andriano is not afraid to bare his soul. “Only Love” is a bitter ballad with a Coldplay-esque piano rhythm (“I hear that the telephone works both ways/Think you can make a little effort some day?” and “Separate these lies like there’s a truth/I don’t know who the hell told you./You’ve probably been lying since you murdered my youth.”), while “Young Lovers” is a lightweight rocker about living in the moment. If you find yourself craving more Andriano-led songs, make sure you check out the Broken Wing EP the band released along with this, as it features three of his strongest tracks yet.
The Chicago punk rockers eighth full-length have one eye on the past while looking forward into the future. The Ramones-inspired opener “She Lied To The FBI,” gets the album off to an exhilarating start, along with the aforementioned “Kiss You To Death” and “Until Death Do Us Part” are sure to bring back memories of past efforts, but My Shame Is True also has the band sounding refreshed and inspired with cuts like “I, Pessimist” and “The Temptation of St. Anthony.” After all the heartbreak, alcohol, and personal strife, it finally sounds like Alkaline Trio is having fun recording music again. A lot of that can be chalked up to the band working with Bill Stevenson, who’s production had a big hand in making these songs sound as good as they do. Despite being fifteen years in the punk rock scene, My Shame Is True is a showcase of a band continuing to be vibrant and vital, when lesser bands have become stale and irrelevant.