After expanding their musical boundaries with their last two albums, Alkaline Trio is returning back to what made their music so addictive. Their seventh studio album (and Epitaph/Heart and Skull debut), This Addiction, takes cues from their dearly loved earlier records, such as Goddammit and From Here To Infirmary. The Chicago natives’ main goal was to make a stripped-down punk rock record while maintaining a big sound. This Addiction accomplishes this, but does it recapture the same magic first heard 12 years ago? Throughout the album, the highs are incredibly enjoyable, while the lows are brutal, just like with any addiction.
As soon as the title track’s initial guitar riff blasts through your speakers, I immediately noticed Matt Allison’s production, as it’s definitely a throwback to early Trio recordings. It captures the vibe of the album nicely, but it will create a love/hate predicament for many fans. But don’t think that the Trio doesn’t throw a few bells and whistles into the mix. Horns fill the background nicely during “Lead Poisoning,” while the synth heard on “Eating Me Alive” puts a little glam into the band’s gothic style. Tracks like “Lead Poisoning” and “Dorothy” capture that melodic yet menacing sound the band had perfected earlier in their career, and “Dine, Dine My Darling” and “Off the Map” have more of a pop vibe to them. “The American Scream” is the ideal Trio song; it’s totally dynamic and enthralling, and should be a quick fan favorite.
Lyrically, This Addiction features some of the band’s most personal lyrics, as well using drug addictions as a metaphor for love and relationships. And just previous records, some of the lyrics are cringe worthy, while others really hit home. Also, one of the album’s standouts, “The American Scream,” shows the band delving into politics somewhat, as guitarist Matt Skiba’s words were inspired by an American soldier who killed himself after returning from Afghanistan.
But with most Alkaline Trio records, fans always break it down between Skiba’s songs and bassist Dan Andriano’s songs. Both vocalists bring something different to the table, as each voice fits certain vibes and creates a nice back and forth variety on each record. It’s more of the same on This Addiction. While Skiba’s frantic voice sounds awesome on the title track and “The American Scream,” he falls flat on blunders like “Draculina” and “Piss and Vinegar.” Andriano only leads on three tracks, but sounds fantastic in each, especially in album closer, “Fine.”
Sometimes the problem with “throwback” albums is the listeners’ tendency to just listen to earlier work. I mean, what’s going to stop you from turning this off and putting on From Here To Infirmary? Personally, the growth in musicianship from that album to This Addiction is staggering and should keep listeners interested. And while some of Skiba’s weakest material shows up here, Andriano really shines and picks up some of the slack.
This Addiction promises exactly what the title describes, as most older fans will eat this up. It strikes me as an album that could be polarizing to fans, splitting them into three groups: fans who love the album because it goes back to the band’s roots, fans who dislike this album because they may think it’s is a cheap imitation of older days, and the fans who might think this is a step backwards from the previous album. One thing is for certain though: this is definitely an Alkaline Trio punk rock record, and This Addiction is my kind of relapse.