Alkaline Trio, 'Good Mourning' (Vagrant)

Good Mourning
Critical Mass
Label: Vagrant

by Andy Greenwald

As reliable as spiked belts, chain wallets, and the distinctive aroma of trust funds is the love all hardcore kids have for the Smiths. Except it's not just love--it's looooooove. Often, when the bruised, bully-boy sadism of punk meets the bullied, bruised-boy masochism of that arch English quartet, the results either sound dreadful or get pigeonholed as "emo" or both. Chicago's Alkaline Trio is that rarest of birds--a group able to meet their dual loyalties halfway. Even when things get maudlin, they've got a fight that never goes out.

Good Mourning, the Trio's fourth album, is their best by a mile. Frontman Matt Skiba still spits loogies of self-lacerating verbiage at the ghosts of his ex-girlfriends. But he's also quicker than ever with the Paul Westerberg-ian zingers: "You crashed your car through my front door.... You told me that you missed me / But you meant with the grill and the hood." Bassist Dan Andriano is an inspired croonsmith in his own right: His "100 Stories" swings like a noose, and on "Emma," he updates Social Distortion's "Ball & Chain" for a more passive-aggressive age, murdering his memories with "one silver bullet and two Vicodin." Together, Skiba and Andriano hide out in the hollows of their own angst, luxuriating in sadness like drama students smoking in the faculty lounge.

On deliciously warped stormers like "This Could Be Love" and "We've Had Enough," the only thing bigger than the hooks are the stakes."Turn that fucking radio off," Skiba screams, desperate for an age when pop punk didn't automatically equal fart jokes. When push comes to shove, this Trio doesn't Blink--even as their eyes fill up with tears. Or their livers fill with beers. Depending.

See also: Jawbreaker, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy(Tupelo/Communion)

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