Sound — 6
I've been a huge Alkaline Trio fan for years, so of course I was extremely excited when I heard that they were releasing a new album.I drove the hour to the CD store a few towns over (I don't have very many CD buying options in my town), bought it, and put it in for my drive home. I was met by the extreme poppiness of "Calling All Skeletons." Although it sounded more polished than the older Alk 3 releases it still maintained the sound I was familiar with. I can't say I'm a fan of the claps though. The same overproduced qualities are found in the next song, "Help Me". Although it is by no means a bad song, it doesn't sound like an Alkaline Trio. After "Help Me" comes Dan's first offering "In Vein." It's a good, fun song. The next song, "Over and Out," is the story of a soldier who is scarred by his memories of the battlefield. It's a typical ballad, but it maintains to keep my attention like a lot of ballads fail to do. Dan's bass line sounds really great, and keeps the flow of the song moving nicely. "I Found Away" is another anti war song, but this one feels like one of the songs on Crimson. It's definitely one of my favorites on the album. "Do You Want to Know?" is Dan's next song. It sounds like an older Alk 3 song, but more polished: it's a solid track. "Live Young, Die Fast" struggles its way out of my stereo next. This song is one of my least favorites due to it's really cliche chorus and boring music. It's a boring song and is almost a guaranteed skip from me. Next up is my favorite song on the album, "Love Love, Kiss Kiss." When I saw the title I thought that it was going to be completely cliche and cheesy, however I was very surprised by it. It's a Dan song, and retains the qualities that I love about the Trio. "Lost and Rendered" is the next track, and it's almost completely different than the previous songs. It has a very big sound, mainly because of the drums. They sound huge. I wouldn't mind if some of my least favorite songs had been replaced with songs like this. The next track is Dan's last, but he makes it count. "Ruin It" is a similar sound to the previous song, which definitely is not a bad thing. The drumming is great; probably the best on the album. The final song, "Into the Night," is decent. It's another that could have been on Crimson. It's a pretty good song, and a good way to finish off the album. Dan's tracks are definitely my favorite songs on the album, which is a first for me. His songs seem more thought out than Matt's songs do. Dan's bass playing is great as usual, Derek's drumming shines at spots, and Matt's guitar work fits every song perfect. None of the instrumentation seems out of place, and the songs flow very nicely. With the exception of some over producing and over polishing (the claps in Calling All Skeletons, the "la la la's" in Help Me, and the ticking clock in Lost and Rendered) the album sounds very good. It's an Alkaline Trio album with a radio polish, which might not appeal to some of the truest fans.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are standard Alk3 lyrics. They deal with dark, depressing topics. The albums lead single "Help Me" is inspired by Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. Over and Out is about a soldier so haunted by his time fighting that he is considering suicide. However, it ends with a message of hope. I Found Away is another anti-war song. My favorite lyrics are in the song Love Love, Kiss Kiss. They lyrics flow very nicely, especially the opening line "Take a look you see I painted you a picture it's black and white except the blood's a little richer..." It's about being lonely and sick of seeing happy couples; something everyone can relate to at some point in their life. The lyrics in Dan's songs seem much stronger than Matt's attempts. Some of the lyrics on Matt's songs are really cliche and predictable most noticeably during Live Young, Die Fast. The chorus says it all, "So live young, die fast No one will last so sit back and relax enjoy the crash You're fading to black and you're gone Live young, die fast Die fast." However, the lyrics are up to the standards the boys have set on their previous releases.
Overall Impression — 7
I would definitely thing that this is the Trio's weakest release to date. If you are just getting into the band this isn't a wise record to start out with. I'd suggest Goddammit or Maybe I'll Catch Fire to start with. My main problem with the album is the over production that producer Josh Abraham puts on it, which is what most die-hard fans will think when they hear this album for the first time. The best songs on the album are all four of Dan's songs (In Vein, Do You Wanna Know?, Love Love, Kiss Kiss, and Ruin It) along with Over and Out and Lost and Rendered. This album should appeal to radio fans, but might lose some of the most die-hard of fans. It's this long running band's first major label release, and it's better than lot's of other band's debuts. It's a decent album, but Alkaline Trio's worst.