While Alkaline Trio’s self-funded seventh studio album This Addiction is not a return to the band’s stripped down sound in the manner of Asian Man Records, it stands as a great addition to the Chicago-based band’s impressive catalog.
Recording with Matt Allison, the man responsible for producing early Alkaline Trio albums such as Goddamnit and Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, created hope for an album that returned to the band’s early, emo by way of pop-punk roots.
However, This Addiction is more a summation of the band’s progression over the past decade.
The opening titular track is reminiscent of 2001’s From Here to Infirmary, but it doesn’t sound rehashed or lifeless due to Alkaline Trio’s fearless integration of new styles, such as trumpet, paired with the band’s signature Chicago-punk sound. If nothing it else, such risks invite the listener to investigate the album’s direction.
Upon hearing “Lead Poisoning,” it’s evident Alkaline Trio can pull off the new style. The trumpet takes center stage as a replacement for a guitar solo. Initially startling, the inclusion of brass makes more and more sense with each listen, as the hook-laden song gives the rhythm section lots of space to work with.
Meanwhile, Matt Skiba shares his time-strengthened vocals, displaying a penchant for building upon the foundation that he laid twelve years ago. He can still write songs as gripping and earnest as anything on Goddamnit, while avoiding mere pandering by dealing with his recent tribulations in his vintage drunken manner on the track “Dead on the Floor.”
On the other hand, Skiba also contributes the album’s weakest moments. “Draculina” starts strong, but is muddled by melodramatic “Twilight” fan-fiction.
With lyrics such as, “I’ve got a devil inside that has been exorcised/Now I’m bleeding for Draculina,” not even the infectious whoas and harmonies that permeate the track are enough to save it. “Eating Me Alive” starts with distracting Cure-centric production. Only the ending of this song is remotely interesting, when Skiba bellows in an impassioned fury “The time has come and gone/And I’d do anything for you” the song finally breaks away from mediocrity. Unfortunately, this happens two minutes too late.
Also unfortunate is Dan Andriano’s sparse presence on This Addiction, as he contributes only three tracks to the album, all of which are worthy addendums to his repertoire. His progression as a songwriter and musician over the band’s career is made apparent. Each track is dynamic; showcasing that Andriano can write anything from a great punk song such as “Dine, Dine My Darling” to the album closer “Fine,” which sounds as if Tegan & Sara had a hand in the writing process.
Meanwhile, Derek Grant’s drumming makes each song unique and technical through subtle fills and metronomic precision, which is heard on “Fine.” This comes as no surprise, as Grant has produced ravenous work on each album.
This Addiction is neither a comeback album, nor is it a return to form. It is an album that stands on its own merits while being as passionate as Alkaline Trio’s first album and as progressive as its last.