Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alkaline Trio - Damnesia Review

When you've got a discography as large as Alkaline Trio, putting out another studio record seems, well... old. So what do you do to keep things fresh? Well, the dark rockers decided to release Damnesia, a 15-track rehashing of some of the band's most classic work (with a couple new songs added for good measure).

But the Trio didn't rerecord with all the bells and whistles this time around. Instead, Damnesia is a stripped down compilation of the fan favorites. Don't count on hearing anything electric on this record - but don't call this an acoustic album, either. Damnesia might be fronted with acoustic guitars but there's enough percussion, heavy bass and keyboards to keep this record from being labeled as simply acoustic.

Alkaline Trio have always had a taste for the macabre and the creepy. So getting down to the bare bones of their music on this record seems like nothing new. And to be honest, the minimalist approach makes a lot of the tracks even darker.

Take for instance "This Could Be Love" (originally off Good Mourning), which has more of a haunting presence to it with its lead melody played on keys rather than guitar. Lead singer Matt Skiba's vocal approach is noticeably better on the new version, though die-hards will hold fast to the original.

The real drawback to this album, if any, is the low level of energy. But again, it's stripped down. Where Damnesia lacks energy are also the same spots in which its dark and brooding presence are best exemplified. Looking again at some of their older work, "Private Eye" (originally off From Here To Infirmary), stands as another track that comes across darker regardless of its slowed tempo and basic nature.

But Damnesia isn't just a horror movie inspired remake of the Trio's early work. The band also recorded two new tracks including "I Remember A Rooftop", led by bassist Dan Andriano, which could easily pass as a b-side off the band's last album, This Addiction.

The other track, "Olde English 800" is a short, comical nod to the malt liquor. If anything, its lightheartedness gives you a break from the nonstop bones, blood, death theme that runs through the rest of the record. Tack onto that a cover of The Violent Femmes "I Held Her In My Arms" and Damnesia starts to feel more than just a rerelease.

Overall, the record should please most fans. Everyone always wants to hear a band play the "older stuff" anyway - and that's certainly taken care of here. Songs like "Mercy Me", "The American Scream" and "Calling All Skeletons" round out the band's newer material as well. And perhaps the best part of this record is that, while it's stuff you've already heard, it's presented in a new way.

If there's any band that can make lyrics about death sound so fresh, it's Alkaline Trio. Damnesia is a perfect addition to your heart and skull collection.

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