MusicMusic Review

Alkaline Trio – “My Shame Is True” Album Review

It’s been just over three years since Alkaline Trio‘s last proper studio album, This Addiction, was released and returned the band to a bit of a more stripped down sound more akin to their earlier efforts. With their latest album, My Shame Is True, The Trio, comprised of Matt Skiba (guitars/vocals), Daniel Andriano (bass/vocals) and Derek Grant (drums/vocals), manage to take that sound even further back and have created an album that feels nostalgic but pushes forward all at the same time. Some of that nostalgia isn’t simply relegated to the band’s past efforts, though. From the album title’s cheeky play off of one of Elvis Costello’s greatest albums to songs that wear their mid 70’s punk sing-a-longs on their sleeves, there’s so much to instantly love about this album, the band’s eighth studio album (ninth if you count Damnesia, but to me that’s basically a greatest hits album). Long gone are the days of Alkaline Trio singing about drinking their lives away and offering their souls to the dark lords. For this album, it’s all about love and only love.

Alkaline Trio
Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio album’s notoriously have stellar lead tracks and My Shame Is True keeps that legacy alive and well, kicking things off with “She Lied to the FBI”, a moment of pure pop punk excellence that compares the post break-up phase to being locked away in prison “now I’m fucked doing Federal time”. Infectious hooks, melodic back ups and Skiba’s patented ways around a tune are on full display; all managing to set the stage for the rest of the album’s tales of broken hearts and self-reflections.

Following up that stellar lead off is the album’s first single, “I Wanna be a Warhol”. Here, Matt continues the previous songs sentiment and dwells on the aftermath of a break-up. In this instance, though, he’s begging to not be forgotten as he himself is “still hung up on you”. It is yet another strong song that hearkens back to Alkaline Trio’s earlier days; not so much in sound but definitely in feeling. The song features some subtle but effective back up vocals from The Lawrence Arms’ Brendan Kelly, who is also a longtime friend of the band. The boys recently debuted a music video for the song featuring the lovely Milla Jovovich which offers a bit of a different interpretation of the song.

It’s not until the third track when Alkaline Trio’s secret weapon takes the stage, and that weapon is Daniel Andriano. Dan usually only gets about 3 or 4 songs per album, but you can bet your ass that those songs are always some of the finest, most well crafted on the album. Dan’s songs are always achingly personal and introspective, but in an almost upbeat way. While most songs about being brokenhearted tend to look for something or someone to blame, Andriano is always quick to put the blame upon himself first.  The track “I’m Only Here to Disappoint”, which reveals plenty in title alone, opens up with “Well I’m hurting for someone else to feel this pain. Are you hurting too? I’m desperate, so desperate” as the chorus  goes on to promise “These simple things I just can’t say. Remove the ‘you’ from you and me. I stand to bring you to your knees.” Andriano isn’t one to take all of the blame in a situation, though. On “Only Love”, a song about how the tangible things in life are far more important than the intangible, Dan sings, “I hear the telephone works both ways. Think you could make a little effort some day?”

As has been the standard since Goddamnit!, Skiba gets a couple of ballads to croon; “Kiss You to Death” and album closer “Until Death Do Us Part”. Both tracks, while not quite as lyrically impressive as Matt can be, manage to be incredibly effective with their sheer honesty alone. On “Kiss You to Death”, Skiba yearns, “I don’t care if we fuck or we talk or we cry. I just miss you.” On “Until Death Do Us Part”, he’s just about given up, but retains a bit of hope as he sings “I won’t hold my breath. I don’t expect a thing but a boy can dream.” While the songs teeter on being a little too ballad-y, the music retains that same sonic presence found throughout the album, surely at least in part due to Bill Stevenson’s production on the album. These songs also feature the band being a bit more creative with their overall song structure and musical arrangements which also helps keep things fresh when they could easily have become commonplace and cliche

By far the standout track is “The Temptation of St. Anthony”. This is Skiba and the band at their finest. Smart lyrics with a sly reference within the title which, if you are familiar with the story, gives the song a much seedier meaning than it might have upon first listen. It’s also musically leaps and bounds above the rest of the album, with an almost haunting bridge that beautifully reeks of The Damned while Skiba promises You haven’t lived until you’ve seen suffering like this. A truly killer song from start to finish.

The rest of the album ranges from some incredibly strong rockers ( “I, Pessimist [featuring Tim Mcllrath from Rise Against]”, “The Torture Doctor”, “Young Lovers”) to a couple more melodic songs that, while good, feel a little like well worn territory (“Midnight Blue”, “One Last Dance”). One of the only gripes I have is that, as good as these boys are at writing love songs, I wish there was a little bit more variety of topic in the mix. Not that I want them to repeat themselves in any way, but it is nice to hear them create songs that revolve around other areas they find themselves passionate about.

All in all, it’s an incredibly solid record. It hits a high water mark right off the bat and doesn’t let up until the end. Much like This Addiction brought some wayward fans back into the fold, My Shame Is True should succeed at that ten fold. It also serves as a compelling jumping on point for new fans, which some of the hooks and melodies found here are destined to reel in. No, it’s not the second coming of Goddamnit!, but it is the natural progression of three guys that love making music together and, if the excitement found within the album is any indication, they are having one hell of a time doing it.

My Shame Is True releases on April 2nd. You can pre-order the album on Amazon (CD, LP+CD , MP3 Deluxe Edition), iTunes (MP3 Deluxe Edition) or still nab some limited bundles at King’s Road Merch here.

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The Author

Matt Hardeman

Matt Hardeman

A lover and admirer of all forms of art, Matt Hardeman finds himself most drawn to Music, Television and Film. He believes that all three have the power to inspire and affect viewers in an innumerable amount of ways that very few other mediums can. Refusing to give in to a digital only future, Matt is a proponent of physical media, consistently adding to his Blu-Ray and Vinyl collections with each now totaling nearly thrice the amount of bones found in the human body. He is a regular contributor to TheHDRoom, ScreenInvasion and the Animation Fascination Podcast site. He is the proud poppa of four cats and is what some may call a beard enthusiast. He has a lovely wife and they both still think that farts are very funny. Also, GO HEAT!