Following Matt Skiba’s interesting move to replace Tom DeLonge in Blink 182, the brakes appeared to come down on Alkaline Trio, leaving a five-year break between 2013’s break-up/make-up album ‘My Shame is True’ and their latest ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’, released at the tail end of August this year on Epitaph Records.
Led by the single ‘Blackbird’, you could be forgiven for thinking their ninth studio album might suffer from being a part-time record shoved between Blink 182 duties. However, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’, produced by Cameron Webb (credited with assisting in Motorhead’s return to form on their later releases), offers up something both refreshing and familiar.
While all the dark trimmings of domestic unease remain ever present in the Alkaline Trio vocabulary, which is sure to please their loyal fans, they manage to retain a lively and erratic sound pushed to new limits and held together by Webb’s skillful production. And although this album is happily reminiscent of some of the Trio’s earlier work, the sharp production adds punch to a set of finely-crafted songs.
The opening title track sets the tone of the album, carrying some of the dramatic weight Alkaline Trio fans are familiar with, before leading into the excellent ‘Blackbird’ with guitars cutting sharply through the production. As to be expected, the dark tones are here all over the album summed up in titles like ‘Demon and Division’ and ‘Heart Attacks’, but this is a danceable collection which rarely dips into dullness. Swinging tunes like ‘Sweet Vampires’ and upbeat punk rockers such as the fantastic ‘Little Help’ really give the album a lift.
Far from suffering from Skiba’s foray into the world of Blink 182, this new Alkaline Trio offering keeps the band dynamic and relevant. ‘Blackbird’, ‘Goodbye Fire Island’ and ‘Stay’ are just some of the instant classics on offer among these artfully, and of course, gloomily, delivered 13 tracks.