Album Review :: Matt Skiba – Demos

After a bit of a delay Matt Skiba brings us his first solo full-length. Demos is a collection of previously unheard songs, recorded by the Alkaline Trio vocalist at home with his computer. Being the big Trio fan I am, I thought it’d be hard reviewing this on it’s own merits. I was right. The one thing I knew for sure was, with the amount of projects Skiba takes on, it was always going to be interesting to see how this turned out. It’s sound is one that’s somewhat familiar, but could still take a while to get used to.

Having heard his past solo work on his split with Kevin Seconds, I expected Demos to follow in the same vein. Those expecting a raw, stripped down collection of songs might be disappointed. Rather than take that route, Matt has chosen to go with a more electric sound, something he’s experimented with before in, his, short lived, side-project with Josiah Steinbrick, Heavens. Like their album, Demos can also be a little hit and miss.

This electronic take on industrial rock is one that Matt seems really fond of. It allows him to let his influences take over and, much like Patent Pending, the tracks bare an eerie resemblance to those of Joy Division and New Order. It’s here that I think Demos’ biggest problem lies. At times, it feels Matt is trying to recreate what’s gone before and that’s the wrong thing to do. When he’s doing his own thing, it’s much better. However, the multitude of synths can really take away from the power of certain tracks. The auto-tune is in full effect here too. It’s not something I’m a fan of, but I can appreciate it where it works. I suspect some of that was used to try and improve the patchy quality of some of the recordings.

Matt also seems to be more introspective than usual and it’s easy to see that a lot of what he’s saying is highly personal, perhaps more so than a lot of his other work. This is clear on. the album’s opener, ‘You Didn’t Feel A Thing’ and ‘How The Hell Did We Get Here.’ He’s always been a great lyricist, and that’s what really shines through. Lyrically, Demos is as good as ever. Here’s where the Trio element really shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of these are unused Trio songs and if they’re not, I’d love to hear a full band take on them. Especially ‘Merry-Go-Round’, which sounds very similar to the more recent output from Trio. The subject matter will be similar to Trio fans and that’s to be expected but, on the whole, they do seem more morose and downbeat. To put it simply, they’re more ‘Over And Out’ than ‘Mr. Chainsaw’.

I’m not going to lie, I’d have liked to see Matt take the Tom Gabel route with this record. However, this is definitely interesting. It’s different to a lot of what he’s done before and maybe that’s why it’s how it is. Demos is bound to disappoint some die-hard Alkaline Trio fans, but I don’t think this was for them. It’s clear that this is a very self-indulgent project, but that’s certainly not a problem. In many ways this record feels like Matt writing for himself. A musical diary, if you will. It’s an interesting album and one that people ought to check out before dismissing it outright.

Interview :: Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio)

“Never give up. Never, never give up!. We shall go on to the end.” – Winston Churchill

We may have failed in our attempt to get a full band interview and our proposed phoner got canceled for reasons that’re best not discussed but, as always, we persevered. Trio bassist, Dan Andriano, agreed to answer some of our questions via email. Cool. We talked a little bit about touring, new projects and got him to answer the all important question. Our thanks go out to Dan for taking time out of his day to answer our questions.

I’ll tell you something, this went a whole lot better than our last email interview.

Anthony Barlow: How’s it going?

Dan Andriano: Going pretty well, thanks. Trying to get in some relaxation here in Nottingham, before soundcheck and all that.

AB: How’s the tour been?

DA: Our shows have been really fun, but it’s also been really long. Three weeks in Europe, two in the UK, then back to Europe for a few days. I’d be lying if I said I
wasn’t feeling a little drained. Being overseas is a great time for us, but it’s harder for me to stay in touch with home, which makes touring a little more taxing
mentally. I get crazy homesick, but our shows are great here so it’s definitely worth it.

Ian Critchley: Do you find touring hard now that you’re a family man? Being away from them for extended periods of time must be hard.

DA: It definitely adds a whole new dynamic to being on tour. My daughter is changing everyday and it kills me to not be around for some of it but, this is what I do, it’s
what I love to do, so I think I’ll be able to do both for quite a while.

AB: What do you think to the reception of the new album?

DA: So far, so good. People seem to dig it. We had a really good and easy time making this record, I think that translates well when listening to the record and people seem to be responding well at shows.

IC: Which Trio album is your favorite and why?

DA: That’s kind of always changing, but right now This Addiction is my favorite because it’s still new and exciting.

AB: Derek mentioned something about the possibility of a “covers album” coming in the future. Can you elaborate on that?

DA: We’re always talking about different stuff we can do just because we love to play music, who knows if that will ever come together or not. We hope so.

IC: You have had quite a few split releases. Are there any new ones on the way?

DA: Nothing currently, but you never know. We’re always making new friends that we may try and team up with in the future.

IC: Is their any possibility of a Falcon UK tour? How about some new Falcon material?

DA: The Falcon is pretty much entirely Brendan Kelly. He writes the songs and organizes the shows and all that. I’m not even really in the band right now, it’s kind of a revolving cast of characters, whoever’s available at the time ya know? I would love to do more stuff with him at some point though.

IC: Is there any news on The Emergency Room?

DA: Unfortunately, no. I want to turn it into a band sooner than later, and I haven’t really had time lately to get that together.

IC: Do you think there’ll ever be a ‘Dan fronted’ Trio single?

DA: I don’t see why not, but, at the same time, that’s not the kind of thing that’s very important to us. We’re not concerned with who’s singing the singles, that’s just a distraction.

AB: Do you ever see yourself getting too old for punk rock?

DA: I’m already too old for punk rock… But I’ll never be too old to do what I want with my life.

IC: Is there any music/film/literature you would like to recommend?

DA: Anything by Wes Anderson, Ryan Adams, John Steinbeck, Alfred Hitchcock, Led Zeppelin, and Yo Gabba Gabba.

AB: If Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and a Shark had a fight, who would win?

DA: That’s ridiculous… Chuck

AB: Finally, what’s next for Alkaline Trio?

DA: Lotsa shows. Come on out and see us.

Video Interview :: Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio)

One out of three ain’t bad.

After a day spent out in the sun, watching and waiting we (“we” being about nine of us at the time of this interview) and not getting anywhere we were greeted by the presence of, Alkaline Trio drummer, Derek Grant. The plan had originally been to speak to all three of the guys (a plan that may still go ahead), but due to some last minute scheduling issues it wasn’t to be. Thankfully, Derek obliged and we have something special for you, dear reader.

Courtesy of, our friend, Jodie Weatherley’s new production company, Trust No One Productions, we have a video interview. That’s right, you don’t have to read a wall of text. Although, if you want to, it’s been transcribed anyway.

This was in Derek’s own time, hence why it’s only a quick one. Massive thanks to him.

Ian Critchley: On your new album you’ve returned to your roots. Was that a conscious decision, or did you just start jamming out and it just kind of happened?

Derek Grant: It just happened, it was more coincidental. We knew that we wanted to work with the producer that the band used to work with and record at the studio, do something in Chicago, and I think it was just a matter of those elements and where we were at as people and, like, the songs that we were writing. So it just came out that way.

IC: On the Heart & Skull Records front, it’s a partnership with Epitaph, what was the decision behind that entire thing?

DG: Well, we were gonna self release the record, so we started our own label, and then Epitaph, basically, we’ve been friends with them for a long time and they said: ‘we know a lot about the business, we can help you out with some of the details’, so we licensed the record to Epitaph.

IC: Good for that, Epitaph, aren’t they? Do you think there’ll ever be a Dan-fronted single?

DG: You never know.

IC: There never has been though.

DG: Yeah, I mean, there hasn’t been and it’s a mystery to me why that hasn’t happened. A lot of times, the singles are picked by the record label.

IC: Right.

Anthony Barlow: I really like the horn section in ‘Lead Poisoning’, but it’s somewhat of a point of contention with fans.

DG: Sure.

AB: What do you personally think of it?

DG: I think it suits the song just fine. When I first heard the idea, I was a little surprised but…

IC: Did you not write the horn section?

DG: No. It was all Matt.

IC: I thought you did, because you did the orchestral thing on ‘Sadie’

DG: Yeah, it was all Matt’s idea.

IC: No way.

DG: Blame Matt.

IC: You and Matt, apparently, bought each other Church Of Satan memberships and then, kinda, went back on it.

DG: A long time ago. I didn’t.

IC: Did Matt?

DG: Maybe a little bit, but I think he shy’s away from talking about it.

IC: It’s nothing like…

DG: It wasn’t the most serious decision to begin with. You know, in my opinion, being a part of any sort of organisation is kinda foolish.

IC: Yeah, yeah definitely.

DG: Especially an organisation that preaches free thought. To be part of a group mentality doesn’t make a lot of sense. So it was more of a, I don’t want to say it was a joke, but it was more of something that was a bonding experience for us. It was pretty early on, once I’d joined the band, and one of the first things Matt and I bonded over was Satanism. Like, I grew up, my mother was a follower of Anton LaVey and LaVey and Satanism, and Matt was into it from an early age as well. So, when we first started hanging out, we didn’t know each other that well and we were trying to find things in common and that was one of the the most outstanding things.

IC: On that same level, you have a pentagram on your nipple. Could you show that to the camera?

DG: No.

IC: No. Are you not gonna do that?

DG: That’s a tattoo for my mom.

IC: Oh right, ok.

AB: You’ve done some pretty surprising covers over the years you’ve been going, is there anything like that coming in the future? *

DG: Yeah, we’ve been talking about doing a covers album for some time so…

IC: Is that Those Crooked Vulva’s?

DG: No, that’s a totally different project, but maybe some of the same songs.

AB: You’ve been playing Ramones covers as well

DG: Yeah, we haven’t played any Ramones covers in a while. We’ve been doing some Misfits songs lately.

IC: Is any of that gonna be played tonight?

DG: Probably.

AB: Nice.

IC: Good stuff, yeah. What’s your favorite Trio album as a drummer? What album do you feel you’ve played best on as such?

DG: Well that’s interesting actually, because my favorite Trio records are the ones I didn’t play on. Which is, maybe, becuase I’m a fan of those records and it’s a little bit easier to be objective about things. As far as records I’ve played on, I’d have to say this one.

IC: Oh yeah, right. If Chuck Ragan, this is kind of a joke question, if Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and a shark had a fight, who do you think would win?

DG: Oh man, I would say Chuck. Chuck’s pretty tough.

IC: Everyone goes for Chuck.

AB: It’s four nil!

DG: I like Henry Rollins just fine, and he seems tough enough. To be honest, I’ve never seen Chuck in a fight, but I know what lies beneath. Henry Rollins seems like kind of a nice guy. As is Chuck, but Henry seems like, I don’t know, like he wouldn’t fare well in that situation.

IC: *laughs* he’d kinda separate himself.

AB: We talked a bit about the setlist, is there any songs you refuse to play?

DG: No.

IC: None that are boycotted, as such.

DG: No. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll play anything. The other guys might have different opinions.

IC: Do you find it hard choosing a setlist, because you’ve got seven albums out now and a load of other stuff as well?

DG: Yeah, it’s impossible. You can never please everybody.

IC: Finally, is there anything you’d like to recommend: music, film or literature? Because there’s a lot of stuff I’ve gotten into through Alkaline Trio.

DG: Oh man, so much stuff. House Of Leaves, the book is amazing. That was very influential for all of us actually. House Of Leaves is an amazing book. I’m trying to think of, as far as films are concerned. There’s a film called Martyrs that’s pretty interesting. We just watched that one. Bronson, you’ve probably seen, I think it did pretty good over here. Musically, I listen to, mainly, older stuff. I don’t listen to a whole lot of new music.

IC: Is there not any new bands you’re into at the moment?

DG: Not really. I mean, I’m always looking for new stuff, but I tend to be disappointed.

IC: Have you heard a band called Crazy Arm?

DG: No.

IC: They’re from round here, and they’re really good.

DG: Ok, I’ll check them out. I appreciate the suggestion.

IC: Right, thank you very much.

DG: Sorry it took me so long to get out here.

Album Review :: Alkaline Trio – This Addiction, Released 23/02/10

Having been a massive Alkaline Trio fan for nearly ten years now, my opinion on their records is often biased. I’ll try and keep my opinions free from as much ass kissing as possible. This is the seventh studio instalment (8th if you count the S/T L.P) from the crowned dark princes of pop-punk. The trio have apparently returned “back to their roots” on this record, but let’s see how it pans out…

The album opens with This Addiction the albums title track, this has been previously reviewed by fellow writer ‘Anton B-Low’ so I won’t go into it much. A lot of people have called this the weakest track on the album, and if so, this album should kick some serious booty.

Next up is Dine, Dine My Darling – the title being a parody of The Misfits’ classic Die, Die My Darling – and the first track from the man Andriano on this disc. What a fucking ear shredder, (in a good way). In my opinion, Dan has been the stronger force in Trio post From Here To Infirmary, and this song is total proof of that. Good wholesome punk rock with a fucking meaty hook of a chorus, especially on the final chorus in the song, showing just how much Mr. Andriano has progressed in both vocal talent and confidence since the early days.

For the third installment it’s back to Matt, who gives their claim of “back to roots” all the more clarification. Fast, furious and dark as hell, Lead Poisoning is Skiba at his best. Wait, what’s this, a ska-punk horn section in an Alkaline Trio song?! But wait…again, this actually works, and works well! REALLY FRIGGIN’ WELL!!

Dead On The Floor sounds a lot more like the more recent Trio, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s a lot slower pace-wise to our opening three, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Number four on the album has one of the slickest bass lines I’ve heard in a long time and really cool vocal line. This will surely have fans drowning out Skiba at concerts, in true Trio live fashion.

It’s back to the upbeat with The American Scream. Out of the entire album so far, this is the one that brings me back to the old school. The lyrics are as darkly poetic as most on Maybe I’ll Catch Fire and the chorus riff just begs for many drunken air guitar motions in future listens. The track title itself reminds me of The Misfits tinged play on words that I know from other reviews and interviews Skiba loves so much. You can tell he’s having fun in every word.

Easily the strongest track on the album in my opinion, if I was a woman or a more openly minded man, I would fall deeply in love with Dan Andriano. Fuck it, I think I have anyway. Not only is it sticking with the old-school etiquette, but this song seems to have kept the awkward romance of Dan’s songs and lyrics since his marriage. It’s reminiscent of the Good Mourning classic Every Thug Needs a Lady and Dan’s heartfelt track on Crimson, I was a Prayer. If Off the Map isn’t Alkaline Trio’s first Dan written single, it REALLY should be.

Draculina is unfortunately, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album, with the famed darkness the Trio hold dear seeming very forced. When I read the title I didn’t think I’d be keen on this song, and after a few listens my opinion hasn’t changed. Not a poor song as such, it just seems like a song that would appeal to a younger generation of fans, more a song for the My Chemical Romance era of fans. Though the line, “I’m leaving heaven behind for good this time the angels can keep it,” is absolutely fucking awesome.

What the hell is this, The fucking Human League? Eating me Alive starts like some 80’s synth track, but make no mistake; this song is no laughing matter. This is the best track on This Addiction to come from Skiba. A clever combination of the pop-punk and Skiba’s influences from artists such as Sisters of Mercy. With lines such as “I can’t stand this dark feeling, this shark eating me up inside,” and “I was bound by your father the jewel thief that night, as you said he was still behind bars,” sung over such an upbeat backing. It’s another prime example of what makes Alkaline Trio such a unique figure in the punk rock scene.

Not sure what’s going on here, maybe due to Against Me! front-man Tom Gabel marrying Trio merch lady Heather Hannoura, (now Heather Gabel, obviously), but it seems the Trio have been stealing song titles from the Against Me! boys, but I’m sure it’s all in good fun. Piss and Vinegar is another awesome track, a bit more laid back and also the shortest on the track, but a bloody good tune none the less.

Dorothy is the closest in my mind to their previous album, Agony and Irony. It reminds me a lot of the track I Found Away for two reasons: it has a very similar feel and also is nearly ruined by some strange, somewhat pointless sound effect. I Found Away had a clock ticking before Skiba sang the word “time“, this track, on the line, “like the scratching sound of insects,” there’s, well, you get the point, but this a minor fault in an otherwise kick ass tune.

The album closes with the Andriano track Fine. The most mellow of all the songs on the album, and definitely the right choice for a closer. This song isn’t even close to punk-rock and it doesn’t try to be, though there is a kick in at the end. It’s a deep, open, heartfelt and even somewhat cheeky song, which is surprising for Dan. Lyrically it is best on the whole record, lines such as “You see a storm knocked out my super powers,” and, “If I’m captain of this ship, then all my shipmates are fools,” see’s Dan mocking himself in an innocent way. Not only is it heart warming, but also quite humorous. The song draws to a close as does the album. Fine? This albums a lot more than fine, its Alkaline Trio just as I like them, darkly poetic, tongue in cheek and slick as hell.

And for any drum fans out there, don’t worry, Derek Grant might not have much mention in this review, but he is very much up to form on this record.

Single Review :: Alkaline Trio – This Addiction

It’s been two years since we last saw Trio put out a record, now they’re back with ‘This Addiction’. The first single from their forthcoming 7th studio album.

Agony & Irony saw Alkaline Trio move in a more mainstream direction, with Matt Skiba stating that the band wanted to make an “anthemic hard rock record”. The album was good, but there was something about it that just wasn’t right.

It seemed they couldn’t capture what made past albums like From Here To Infirmary great, with some (I’m talking to you Rolling Stone) going as far as calling the band emo and making comparisons between them and My Chemical Romance.

This year sees the return of the Chicago-based trio, and their new track suggests a return to form that might shake off their newly acquired emo label. This Addiction, the title track to their forthcoming album, is two and a half minutes of greatness. You can’t help  but move in a disorderly fashion whilst it’s playing and, with a hook so darkly catchy, you won’t be able to resist singing along. It certainly looks like the guys are back to their best. This track only intensifies my need for the new album. Ok I’ll say it, I am officially addicted.

Alkaline Trio :: This Addiction