Sound — 8
When Alkaline Trio co-front man Matt Skiba opens their new album singing, Here it is again yet it stings like the first time, the line is really a foreshadow of what's ahead. For the next forty minutes or so, the Chicago outfit cranks out more of the brooding yet always contagious Pop-Punk they've built a small empire on. Just when you get a chance to catch your breath, another blast of catchy, hard-hitting melodies comes screaming out of your speakers! After spending the better part of a decade on indie labels like Asian Man and Vagrant Records, the band caused some controversy by signing to Epic Records which is part of the Sony conglomerate. Many of their fans took to the message boards and cursed the band's name for making the move. The truth is, the boys haven't changed all that much. From beginning to end, the album oozes with the kind of energy that will undoubtedly satisfy even the biggest non-believer at a Warped Tour stop.
Lyrics — 8
Like some kind of Addams Family version of the Goo Goo Dolls, Alkaline Trio is lead by a guitarist and bassist who both write and sing their own material. And like Johnny Reznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba gets more of his material on their albums. The track listing on Agony and Irony is no different. Skiba sings seven out of the eleven tunes this time out. His writing contributions don't disappoint with a few destined for Greatest Hits type of love down the line. The album's first single, Help Me, was inspired by the Joy Division/Ian Curtis biopic, Control and Skiba unleashes some of his most potent hooks on the song's tremendous chorus. The band's arrangement is definitely modern but with vocal lines this strong, Help Me certainly has a timeless quality to it. Lyrically speaking, he visits the familiar themes he's tackled throughout AK3's discography. On Over and Out, Skiba tells the story of a soldier so tormented by his battlefield memories, that he's contemplating suicide. In an interesting twist, the song ends with a message of hope proving it's not all blood and guts for the songwriter. As exhilarating as Skiba's stuff is here, Andriano showed up to the studio with a handful of songs that deserve just as much of the spotlight. In fact, the vocalist/bassist chimes in with the album's greatest track. On Do You Wanna Know? Andriano sings, ...don't leave me out with these mosquitoes/trying to drink up all my wine right before an avalanche of guitars comes crumbling on top of his anthemic chorus. You'll find yourself reaching for the rewind button over and over again; I know I did! Hopefully the suits at Epic realize the song's genius and release it as a single down the road.
Overall Impression — 8
From the pulsating riff-fest of Calling All Skeletons to the driving beat of Into the Night, all of their naysayers' fears of the band selling-out are quelled. Sure, producer Josh Abraham (Korn, Velvet Revolver) wraps their arrangements with the FM radio gloss that you would expect from a major label funded album. But in reality, Agony and Irony isn't that different from their last two efforts in the sonic sense. The band even throws in a few curveballs proving they are willing to take the kinds of stylistic risks that lesser groups wouldn't take. Avant-garde minimalists, Ulver chime in with some string arrangements while Douglas P. of Goth lifers, Death In June provides a spoken word intro for I Found A Way. The power-trio's drummer, Derek Grant puts in a workmanlike performance, never over-playing his parts or getting in the way of Andriano and Skiba's songwriting nuances. His commanding musical presence on tracks like Do You Wanna Know? and In Vein brings to mind AFI drummer Adam Carson's best work. Ultimately, AK3 not only prove their critics wrong with Agony and Irony but they manage to do something much more important. With this new collection, the vampire kings of Pop-Punk have come together to create some of their most thrilling material yet!