ALBUM REVIEW: Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?

Release Date: August 31st 2018
Label: Epitaph Records


There’s twenty years between Alkaline Trio‘s debut full-length and their brand new and ninth record ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’. Yet, even after a five-year stop gap between this and their last effort, ‘My Shame Is True’, the group seem revitalised and as a fresh as ever.

Opening with the title-track, the group decide to display the various avenues that they’ve taken over the years with a piano-driven verse. By having the slow build of tension, the focus is taken to co-vocalist/bassist Dan Adriano‘s hypnotic melodies before the band explode into the track. Eschewing conventional structures, the band relies on intertwining melodies throughout to gratifying results.

From start-to-finish, the album brings back to the forefront exactly how well they can craft a melody, with the likes of ‘Pale Blue Ribbon’ jumping from chorus to verse in quick succession, yet still allowing enough space for the hook to sink its teeth in.

By having the advantage of knowing what works for the group, they’ve streamlined their niche; co-vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba takes his signature sound, and with ‘Heart Attacks’, produces one of his strongest songs yet.

Throughout the album the group takes cues from previous efforts and injects them into each track, played with a passion to rival their contemporaries. The range of influences and amount of shifting dynamics create a listening experience that keeps its audience.

All of these ideas wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for the drum work of Derek Grant, crafting subtle yet technical flourishes around solid rhythmic foundations. From his effortless switch to half time and back again throughout ‘Worn So Thin’ to his accents on ‘Demon And Division’, Grant creates nuances that demand repeat listens.

Lyrically, the band balance their trademark romantic dark humour with political leniencies, with ‘Sweet Vampires’ showcasing their signature output with lines such as “But tears fill the tub with the blood from your wrist that night.” Whereas on ‘Goodbye Fire Island’, the subject of The Fyre Festival is tackled with lyrics like “Entitled waves will wash us all away.”

From the breakneck section changes to the evolving lyrics, Alkaline Trio have shown that they’re not the same band from two decades ago, yet they have retained the melodic skill that caught their audience.