By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Alkaline Trio is Blink-182 with the Promise Ring's guilty conscience, the kind of guys who'll break your heart before breaking the bottle, the kid next door who leaves flaming shit on your porch but makes mulch in the morning. So perhaps it's no surprise that From Here to Infirmary, the band's new album, is as good as three chords and a sneer get these days, when rap-metal's self-flagellating crunch is making the pursuit of boobs and beer look downright insensitive. It makes sense that the Trio's brio, full of capital-A Angst, would resonate, even sound vital, in a way no one else's in the post-Green Day camp does anymore.
But I can't say that I'm not surprised. Maybe I'll Catch Fire, the record the band made in 1999, caught me off guard as an impressive continuation of the diary-shredding blare Bay Area heroes Jawbreaker honed on a series of stellar albums it made in the mid-'90s. That band's frontman, Blake Schwarzenbach, became a sort of poet laureate for kids with chain wallets, thanks largely to his ability to make things like boxes of old photographs sound like black holes and his Cobain-like knack for marrying pop's sweet yearning to punk's gruff confusion.
Matt Skiba, the devil-locked ne'er-do-well who fronts the Alkaline Trio, has so far proven himself the perfect man for the job. Schwarzenbach left when he broke up Jawbreaker. Like Catch Fire, Infirmary unexpectedly pulls a great deal of emotion from a tired form, making use of but not relying solely on the singular release a loud-ass guitar can provide. Like Schwarzenbach, Skiba's getting close to figuring out the ideal ratio of pathetic to bathetic: "I'm dying tomorrow/This house, this street, Chicago," he rasps on "I'm Dying Tomorrow," Infirmary's most potent blast. Good luck finding pop-punk as warped as this on the Warped Tour.
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