Thumbs up or thumbs down? Reviews made simple.
‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ is the ninth studio album by American punk rock band Alkaline Trio. It’s been five years since their previous release since, 2013s My Shame Is True, and I, like many have been impatiently waiting for a new album. I knew that when Matt Skiba joined Blink 182 that it would mean a longer wait but I was starting to think it wouldn’t be coming at all. Then suddenly back in July, alongside with the first single ‘Blackbird’, came the announcement that the new record was coming a month later. Huzzah!
I’ve seen on Twitter, Facebook and other reviews that this album has been receiving positive responses and rightly so! I’ve also seen that many people consider it the bands best album since 2003s Good Mourning and that its recaptured the spirits of the older records. I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one who loves 2013s My Shame Is True, it remains my favourite album with a maturer and more relaxed sound with the same great hooks and melodies. To be fair, those are the main reasons I love Alkaline Trio, they are brilliant song smiths and it could be applied to pretty much all of their work.
I would agree that this record does nod to their past but it also continues the sounds from the last album. It’s immediately familiar and nostalgic but fresh at the same time. So winner, winner! As usual you get the classic Alkaline Trio themes such as depression, politics, the bands hometown of Chicago and romance. It seems the break has done the group well as they return, not revitalised (as they didn’t need to be) but fresh, and with plenty of energy. All the while delivered with that older and wiser and perhaps slightly mellowed sound from a band that knows it’s place. It’s worth noting that there might be extra interest due to Skiba’s Blink 182 involvement and that this is a very good album for new fans to find the Trio as it has a little bit of everything.
In my opinion the album really picks up after the half way mark. Track five to be precise ‘I Can’t Believe’. It from this point on that I think it becomes a great sounding record. Don’t get me wrong I like the opening four songs, including the first and second singles (‘Blackbird’ and titular track ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’) but it’s from here where it all comes together. The penultimate track on the album ‘Throw Me To The Lions’ is another personal favourite and became my favourite song on the album during my first listen through.
Throughout though ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ reminds fans about how well this group can craft melodies, write great hooks and at its best you also have the harmonies of Skiba and Andriano working perfectly together. Meanwhile you have the ever excellent Derek Grant throwing in his trademark flourishes onto his solid, reliable beats. Grant has been one of my favourite drummers for a long time.He’s subtle and yet complex at the same time. Adding extra layers to songs without overcrowding the room or trying too hard to get noticed. Travis Barker will always grab the headlines in Blink 182, but for me I will always prefer Grants work.
Is This Thing Cursed is another fantastic album from my favourite band. In my opinion, the sign of a good album is to leave you wanting more, which is exactly what this record does. I just hope that the trio will allow for this band to be more than just a side project. Don’t make me wait another five years!