2008 is a significant year for the Alkaline Trio. Earlier this month, Skiba and co. released their sixth full-length, called Agony & Irony. It is their major label debut (on Epic Records). 2008 also marks the ten-year anniversary of their first LP, Goddamnit. Asian Man Records re-released Goddamnit with new artwork, better production, and a retrospective DVD called “Original Sin.” The package is known as the Goddamnit Redux. The proximity of the two releases serves as a reminder to diehard fans of where Alkaline Trio came from, and for the most part, how badly they’ve aged.
Agony & Irony has the Alkaline Trio testing new waters and then receding back to the comfortable beach they’ve made for themselves. I believe “Déjà vu” is the correct term, as in, “isn’t this the same guitar riff from Private Eye?” or, “I heard these lyrics somewhere on Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.” The greatest successes on the record come when they try something new. The hand claps at the beginning of “Calling All Skeletons” create a fun atmosphere that signals the end of the faux-goth vibe that hurt Good Mourning and Crimson. My question is, why not shed the goth image altogether? Why stick with the standard red-and-black artwork? Why continue to dress in suits when your best albums were written in t-shirts and jeans? Why the hell would you include a song called, “Live Young, Die Fast?” The creepy goth thing worked for Goddamnit because it was new and tongue-in-cheek. They’ve beat it into the ground by now, and it’s time to move on.
Some of the songs work, if only because Skiba and Andriano have a penchant for writing catchy songs. “Help Me” is as good a pop song as I’ve heard all year, and it stacks up with earlier material (kinda). “Do You Wanna Know?” and “I Found Away” are solid, and the middle of the record is better off because of it.
In the liner notes for the Goddamnit Redux, Asian Man Records founder Mike Park praises the thrifty and raw qualities of the original record. In doing so, he inadvertently criticizes Agony & Irony for its major label sound. Kudos Mike, you discovered a great punk band in their prime, put out their best records, made a killing, and moved on. Goddamnit is the finest Asian Man release, Alkaline Trio’s best, and a record that will speak to freaks like me for generations to come. Simply put, it’s a punk classic and the definitive Alkaline Trio album. Agony & Irony is the kind of record you put on for a few songs, and then take off the turntable to make room for Goddamnit.