Alkaline Trio has made and remade punky pop records over their 14-year career, only recently expanding their sound to newer levels. The band’s seventh studio release, “This Addiction,” goes back to basics, returning to the low production and endearing punk that is entrenched in the band’s roots. The formula brings a group of successful songs, though overall it proves that the band has not survived the test of time, sounding like a group nostalgic for the past rather than optimistic for the future.
The album’s opener thrives in its fuzzy, punk inspired guitars and speedy drum beat, while producer Matt Allison, who worked with the band in the late ‘90s, intelligently turns down the production to add authenticity to the band’s edge. The metaphor of drug addiction as a love addiction works well, as the song’s bouncing rhythm keeps the repetition of the words “this addiction” from becoming irritating.
“Dine, Dine My Darling” follows with less dynamics and more pop focused instrumentals, playing almost like a calmer version of a song by The Gaslight Anthem. The guitar chords sharply jut during the verses and hum on the chorus, playing gently enough for the song’s narrative lyrics to be the focus of the song. The band switches styles on the ska-influenced “Lead Poisoning,” ending the song with a trumpet solo, which, despite its simplicity, fits well over the group’s crunchy guitar chords.
Halfway through the album it seems that the band is intent on not exploring new ground, focusing their efforts on capturing their older sound rather than experimenting sonically. This becomes tiresome over the course of the album, as songs cease to distinguish themselves from one another, with the exception of a few standouts. After the shining “The American Scream,” which sounds almost like a Taking Back Sunday tribute, the band starts to recycle ideas musically, reaching dangerously close to monotony.
The latter half of the album begins with the heavy strumming and Blink 182-esque vocals of “Off the Map,” yet, for all the Blink influence, it noticeably lacks the drumming virtuosity of Travis Barker. Instead, the song merely drags on about rowing off the map on a boat: “I can row, row, row my boat back to shore someday / So are you coming with me? Anchors away.”
“Draculina” initially follows with a more gothic sound, but brings back the same guitar static, heavy strumming and easily forgotten drums. Lyrically, the story is not all too compelling either: “Leaving heaven behind for good this time, the angels can keep it / I’ve got a devil inside that has been exorcised, now I’m bleeding for Draculina.”
Alkaline Trio ends the album with glossier production on “Fine,” bringing in church bells and cleaner guitars, but by this point most casual listeners will have given up and they are, unfortunately, not missing too much either.
The band’s effort to return to their glory days is admirable, but it is difficult to recreate the same magic that worked well over a decade ago. The group’s older material will always be cherished; anything new seems like a cheap imitation of the band’s best work. So while some of the material here will appease fans, “This Addiction” is not as permanent or long-lasting as its title implies.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at email@example.com.