Sound — 7
Chicago punks Alkaline Trio have undoubtedly mellowed as they've journeyed through their 30s, but it would be unfair to say that they've been less effective. What experimental albums like "Crimson" proved was that they can use more than one or two formulae to sink their dark hooks into the consciousness, which has to be a consideration for a band looking to outlive its fifteenth anniversary. Love or hate that progression, 2010's "This Addiction" ended up reacquainting the band with their roots and "My Shame Is True" continues to involve them in the conversation. You certainly couldn't have a more respected name at the helm - Descendents drummer and volume fetishist Bill Stevenson produces for the first time, toeing the line as he always does between pleasant and invasive loudness. He knows how to make a modern punk rock record work. "The Torture Doctor" and electrifying single "I Wanna Be A Warhol" are tingling with energy, but as we've learnt the Trio don't just do punk anymore. The last third of the album puts melody before any aggression, and the lighter touch may not impress listeners who were stirred by the urgency of the first few tracks.
Lyrics — 7
This is the first time in many years that the Trio can base their morose tales on real, ongoing pain. Matt Skiba's been through a divorce, a relationship and another tough break-up since "This Addiction" but this album doesn't flick the raw nerve of their debut or channel the misery with such poetic sensibility as they have in recent years. You feel for him when he sings "tell me that everything will be okay/tell me that you're still in love with me" but such outpourings (and there are quite a few on this album) lack the wit and linguistic sneer that normally make him so effective. Perhaps he was best at conveying darkness when he was merely an observer to it. Dan Andriano, meanwhile, continues to inject positivity in small drops. Very small drops, as you might imagine, on "I, Pessimist" and "I'm Only Here To Disappoint" but greater later on, when his reflective mood provides welcome contrast to Skiba's faster, darker excursions. "I, Pessimist" is his first tilt at the high-octane punk sound in many years (Rise Against's Tim McIlrath is drafted in for the job) but the two voices don't quite fall in together. His warm, caring tone best suits sentimentality these days and his strongest contributions here are the tracks which exhibit it.
Overall Impression — 7
The good certainly outweighs the bad on "My Shame Is True". There's no shortage of hooks and "I Wanna Be A Warhol" is, musically and lyrically, the best single Alkaline Trio have put out in years. Exceptions to the occasional shortcomings are plenty from song to song but for a band with such a strong identity they seem, over the course of an entire album, not lost but not sure of what they want to do. Think of this as a well-framed collection of songs rather than a priceless work of art.