Like most people who experienced the most awkward years of their lives in the early years of the new millennium, I listened to emo music. This mopey musical invasion was hardly the first public manifestation of teenage angst, which howled with the punk rock of the late ’70s and early 80s, and then sneered with the grunge rock of the 90s. But emo certainly was the gloomiest, giving birth to the most unabashed whimpering since the word “teenager” was coined.
I remember well listening to The Alkaline Trio during this embarrassing time of my life. So, upon hearing their latest release “Damnesia,” a mostly retrospective album, which has been released to coincide with their 15-year anniversary tour in the United States, I can’t help but feel that it’s time for The Alkaline Trio to grow up, at least a little. Whining after your teenage years are long over isn’t just unattractive, it’s plain boring.
The band is nothing short of self-indulgently morbid. The lame and tame “I was just a stupid kid back then” has given way to “You cut off my fingers, one by one,” as “This Could Be Love” narrates a doomed romance as if it was a torture scene, complete with chopped-up digits and body bags. Really? But phrases like “crack my head open on your kitchen floor” are bit excessive when talking about a first breakup, and completely embarrassing for a 30-year old.
Sometimes with flagrant disregard for the tenets of musical politeness, lead singer Matt Skiba howls his lyrics. His half-spoken words grow ever more grating, but somehow not less compelling. For he is nothing if not genuine.
Which brings me to the Alkaline Trio’s greatest strength: their honesty. The music is truly unapologetic. They boldly confront the lovers who spurned them, the friends who rejected them, a world that failed to understand them.
This naked, unfettered pain is the band’s greatest strength. I suspect this album will provide comfort to teenagers who feel lost in that purgatory which precedes adulthood. But at a certain point, they’ll probably grow out of it.
Tags: alkaline trio, amanda scherker, Reviews, The Alkaline Trio - Damnesia review