My Shame Is True

Alkaline Trio

Epitaph Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


My relationship with this longstanding (formerly) Chicago pop punk trio has been turbulent at best. While I nearly wore out the grooves on their early records Maybe I'll Catch Fire and From Here To Infirmary, some of their more recent work has just gathered dust. Not that anything they've done has been unlistenable; in fact, even at their worst they're still a better band than 99% of what passes for 'punk.’ It just seems that with Alkaline Trio, the bar was set so high at their onset that's it's been difficult to trump.

My Shame Is True, their eighth studio album, was reportedly aimed at regaining the punk sensibilities of their formative years. That, combined with the fact that it was produced by Bill Stevenson (Descendents, Black Flag) and features Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) on a tune, left me hoping I'd have to pick up two copies – one to wear down from repeated listens, one to keep in mint condition. Moreover, with a recent divorce to sort through, main vocalist Matt Skiba, who has always worn his heart on his sleeve, seemed to have plenty of songwriting fodder at his disposal, and his themes of love gone awry have always fueled the best Alkaline Trio songs. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"She Lied To The FBI" is smartly placed in the opening spot, as it's a spunky pop punk tune that's reminiscent of their early days, a perfect mix of melody and catchy choruses. "I Wanna Be A Warhol" follows and is a bit darker in scope but still a solid, driving punk song with Dan Andriano's familiar backing vocals providing the 'woah oh ohs.' "I'm Only Here To Disappoint" and "Kiss You To Death" sound they would have fit nicely on their ominous album Good Mourning. Andriano takes the vocal lead on the former and it's a more cautious, mysterious offering while the latter is Skiba fronted and lyrically touches on their goth punk inclination.

At the halfway point is where the collaboration with Tim McIlrath lands. Andriano and Mcllrath do a call and response with the singing, and the charged energy definitely sounds more Rise Against than Alkaline Trio, though considering it's one of the best songs in recent history you won't hear me complaining. This goes right into the softest song of the bunch, the introspective and sage-like "Only Love" where Andriano discusses squaring up with God before he dies and dismisses distractions like drinking in favor of embracing love. It's poetic and eloquent both lyrically and musically and shows a very sophisticated side of the band.

The last half of the album is just as essential as the first, with the fiery rockers "Torture Doctor" and "Midnight Blue" as well as the closing ballad "Until Death Do Us Part", all of which remind us that Alkaline Trio have always excelled at any tempo or volume.

When listening to My Shame Is True, one can't help but wonder if this was the album they turned in for their brief major label stint would we would all be hearing Alkaline Trio everywhere instead of having to endure Fall Out Boy as the mainstream idea of 'punk.’  This is their best work since Crimson, and though they may all live thousands of miles apart and spend time doing other bands or solo work, the magic that is Alkaline Trio is still as vital as ever.

Rating: A-

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© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epitaph Records, and is used for informational purposes only.