"What came first, the music, or the misery?" ĖNick Hornby
In the case of Alkaline Trio, itís most certainly the latter. It has
often been said that you canít write a love song if you've never been in love.
The same can be said of writing a song about being
drunk, stoned and not quite out of love. From
Here to Infirmary makes it clear that nobody knows this better than Matt Skiba and Dan
Andriano, the Trioís songwriters-at-large. The Chicago-based band's
third full-length, their first for Vagrant, marks a big step forward in
the evolution of one of the nationís best young bands.
Produced by long-time associate Matt Allison, From Here to Infirmary is
the record the Alkaline Trio has always promised and threatened to make. It blends
their trademark jackhammer riffs, frantic rhythms and
heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics with deft production and a heavy dose of
humility, creating a sound thatís both heartfelt and horrifying. The album also
finds the bandís obsession with skulls, cops and fire firmly
intact ó- further strengthening the argument that the Trio remain too
dark to be emo and too harsh to be pop.
From Here to Infirmary comes charging out of the gate with one of the
most devastating opening triads in recent memory. "Private Eye", "Mr.
Chainsaw" and "Take Lots With Alcohol" all bristle with infectious
energy, fire off intelligent lyrical observations and rest their heads on teetering
rhythmic assaults, courtesy of Andriano and former Smoking Popes drummer
Mike Felumlee. "Private Eye" also features one of the stealthy Chicago
in-jokes of which the band is so fond -- but no matter where youíre from, a
line like "New Years Eve was as boring as heaven, I watched flies fuck
on Channel 11" is bound to stick (Channel 11, aka WTTW, is Chicago's main public television outlet. - Ed.).
And thatís only the beginning. Over Skibaís skittering guitar and Felumleeís fierce pounding, "Stupid Kid" tells a rueful tale of a boy trying to forget about
love. The one-two punch of "Steamer Trunk" and "Youíre Dead" hits like a bomb,
sending pieces of heart-shaped shrapnel flying into your guts. Andriano gets his shots in with the darkly romantic "Another Innocent Girl" and "Iím Dying Tomorrow", which both feature strangling bass lines and walls of fuzzed-out guitar. The madly catchy "Armageddon" would be a top five radio
hit in any sane world, while album closer "Crawl" finds the group utilizing piano for the first time, albeit minimally and to relatively creepy effect. Thereís simply not a bad song in the bunch. As if they've realized that they've put in a very solid day's work, the band puts down their instruments and gets back to the business of finishing off that last bottle of whiskey.
Run, donít walk to your nearest shop to grab a copy of From Here to
Infirmary. Toss it on, pour yourself a half-dozen stiff ones and
reminisce about all the ones -- good and bad -- who got away. For the sake
of their music, I hope the Trio's misery continues.