Posted on March 29th, 2013 (4:00 pm) by Ben Welton

Reviewing My Shame Is True, the ninth studio album from Chicago’s weathered pop punkers Alkaline Trio, is yet another time warp for little ole me. Much like The Bronx (whose The Bronx IV I reviewed not that long ago), Alkaline Trio are a band that I used to care about, but don't really think about anymore. I mean I used to really care about Matt Skiba, Dan Andriano, and Derek Grant. Starting with From Here to Infirmary, and up until Crimson, I drank Alkaline Trio’s proverbial Kool-Aid (which, when talking about music, should be put in terms of “buying the shirt”) for many years, and more than one of my high school notebooks had the band’s Heart & Skull logo on it. I guess I was attracted to the band’s mixture of heartache and supernatural darkness; a Decadent concoction if ever there was one. They seemed like the next logical step after The Misfits, my favorite band at the time, and when I caught Matt Skiba talking about Anton LaVey on a music television countdown, I immediately started researching the Church of Satan.

Somewhere along the way though, I gave up on wearing all black. I grew further and further away from Alkaline Trio, a band that I started to see as juvenile and far too weak (sonically speaking) for my increasingly abrasive tastes. The grand irony of this was that Crimson, the last record that I paid attention to, was the first outright display of Alkaline Trio’s incredible maturity. Unlike their goth-tinged pop punk classic Good Mourning (which is a record that I listened to in a loop during a summer drive from South Carolina back to West Virginia), Crimson showed a different coloring, with lush piano intros and dream rock moments that added to the album’s nightmarish quality.

So, with that in mind, I set out to listen to the band’s latest record under the expectation that I would re-find Alkaline Trio as a mature alternative rock act, not yet still a pop punk band with Huysmans-like overtones. To my surprise, I found My Shame Is True to be truer to the band’s origin, specifically their greatest record, 1998’s Goddamnit. The title alone should have been a signal; for, by linking their latest effort to Elvis Costello’s life-changing first one, Alkaline Trio seem to be saying that My Shame Is True is a rebirth, a phoenix rising again to enrich the punk rock magnetosphere.

Unfortunately, My Shame Is True isn't quite up with the angels yet, plus it’s not a full return to the band’s original sound. On Goddamnit and Good Mourning, Skiba and Andriano crafted booze-filled soliloquies about bad break-ups and troubled love. They managed to do this in ways that weren't effete or unnecessarily navel-gazing, with Andriano’s songs being more upbeat in comparison to Skiba’s often dour personal reflections. On My Aim Is True, such slackerdom has been dispensed with, and the rare moments of darkness are downright bright in comparison to their antecedents. On “I Wanna Be A Warhol,” which has the band’s signature brand of catchiness, a passing reference to swallowing a handful of something (drugs?) is the only streak of silver in the entire song. And even though Skiba seems to be begging to become Dorian Gray’s portrait, “I Wanna Be A Warhol” is too pleading to be phantasmal. The song’s video, which features the beautiful and ageless Mila Jovovich and a plot reminiscent of Henri Barbusse’s 1908 novel Hell, does a better job of catching the listener’s attention than the actual song itself.

“She Lied to the FBI,” the album’s opener, has plenty of pep, and even though it seems like a near parody of The Ramones’s similarly acronym-friendly “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” “She Lied to the FBI” contains a pleasurable parable about how crime does not pay. “She Lied to the FBI” is Matt Skiba at his most tough guy lovesick, and that’s where I personally prefer him. In “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” Skiba’s sexual urges are driving him batty, much like old St. Anthony. “The Temptation of St. Anthony” is a decently angsty song until one realizes that the band is suggesting correlations with Félicien Rops’s pornographic The Temptation of Saint Anthony from 1878. This knowledge turns the pop-y Alkaline Trio tune into a grotesquerie that only manages to titillate, not inspire. That is the most frequent feeling on My Shame Is True: good, yet milquetoast songs that, like Golden Age detective novels, get forgotten not too long after the first listen.

This is not to say that My Shame Is True is entirely forgettable; there are indeed moments of fun on the record. “I’m Only Here To Disappoint” is a gratifying ballad about self-loathing, whilst “Kiss You To Death” is the album’s apex of songwriting. Taken as a whole, My Shame Is True is not a bad record, but it’s not a terribly great one either. Essentially, the latest from Alkaline Trio is comparable to all the Rush records that came after Moving Pictures: fine for the diehards, but irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Track List:
1. She Lied to the FBI
2. I Wanna Be A Warhol (feat. Brendan Kelly)
3. I'm Only Here To Disappoint
4. Kiss You To Death
5. The Temptation of St. Anthony
6. I, Pessimist (feat. Tim McIllrath)
7. Only Love
8. The Torture Doctor
9. Midnight Blue
10. One Last Dance
11. Young Lovers
12. Until Death Do Us Part

Alkaline Trio - My Shame Is True Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

63 / 100
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