Top 5 Songs: Alkaline Trio

I’ve talked before about how I don’t really have favourite things. That isn’t true, so much as I find it very hard to settle on one specific thing that I like more than any others. Context is important to me and I wouldn’t expect much else from a history graduate, so I find it hard to make comparisons between things that I really like. The reasons that I like them are equally valid but the things are for two different contexts.

However, Alkaline Trio, the punk rock band hailing from McHenry, Illnois (as opposed to all the other Alkaline Trios out there), remain one of my favourite artists of all time and so I will list five of their songs that I like a lot and why. Hopefully you will go away and listen to them and enjoy the music they’re producing. Maybe not. But at least you will know a little more about me should you ever choose to impersonate me in the future.

Via sciencedaily.comIt will be the dullest time of your life. Yes, Kristen Stewart dull.

Anyway, on with the list:

1. The American Scream from This Addiction

Released in February 2010, This Addiction was the band’s first album on their own label, Heart & Skull, which was named after their logo. The album was produced by the band, with input from Matt Allison, who had produced previous albums with the band – Goddammit (1998), Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000), and From Here to Infirmary (2001). The band were looking to return to their punk rock roots after the hard rock anthemic album Agony & Irony (2008).

The American Scream is an examination of the brutality and futility of war: that in the end, nobody wins. I think that appeals to me as a pacifist. It’s a very sad song (and, if possible, the acoustic version that appears on Damnesia (2011) is even sadder), with visceral imagery (“All along thought I was doing the right thing,
Now I’m lying in a pool of my blood.”) and satirical examination of the support for modern theatres of war – Iraq, Afghanistan etc. (“As we blindly clap and cheer from the sidelines/It’s clear, on a losing streak from the very start.”). There’s also a reference, if you know you’re war poetry, to Jessie Pope’s poem Who’s for the Game?, which is often compared and contrasted in English classes with Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est; “All along thought they were rooting for the home team, As they’re sent into the game and torn apart.”

The whole song is heartfelt, emotional, and urgently real. It’s a beautifully sad reaction to the horrors of war and it grabs you by the heart.

Favourite lyric:

They took that faded ribbon off the oak tree.
They’ve worn out all the hope in their hearts.
All along thought I was doing the right thing,
Now I’m lying in a pool of my blood.

2. Kiss You To Death from My Shame Is True

My Shame Is True is the newest Alkaline Trio album, released in February 2013 and is their ninth studio album.

I have to admit that this one is a bit of an indulgence on my part. Not that it’s not a good song, because it’s really good, but more because it has a connection to my wonderful girlfriend Olivia. She also likes Alkaline Trio and we’ve quoted this song to each other. Whilst there are other great songs on this album – Only Love being a very close contender – this song just reminds me of her and that’s never a bad thing.

Favourite lyric:

Taking a ride down to your place,
Dropping by in just a while.
And I don’t care if we fuck, or we talk, or we cry.
I just miss you,
I want to kiss you to death tonight.

3. Tuck Me In from Maybe I’ll Catch Fire

Taken from their second album, which was released in March 2000, Tuck Me In has an aggressive and self destructive tone to it, which in my more emotional moments hits the right chord (if you’ll pardon a ridiculous clichéd pun). There are numerous references in the song to horror movies, which I probably don’t necessarily understand as I don’t like them myself, but the lyrics “Tuck me into where there’s bleeding, where it spills out of the walls onto the floor” are a fairly obvious one.

For me, Tuck Me In really encapsulates the self destruction and ultimate futility of anger, as well as capturing the hollowness that comes along afterwards.
Favourite lyric:

Tuck me into where I’m falling,
Where I can feel the heat rise underneath my wings.
And all the fallen angels in hell will tuck me away from you.
Take me away from everything.

4. Mr Chainsaw from From Here to Infirmary

From Here to Infirmary, released in 2001, may well be the best name for an album ever. It’s a tough one and certainly Rancid’s …And Out Come The Wolves is a strong contender. Alkaline Trio have a habit of playing with words in their song titles, album titles, and lyrics and I suppose this wordplay is part of what endears them to me.

Mr Chainsaw is one of those songs that take me back to being a frustrated teenager, trying to cope with depression and the trials and tribulations of relationships, lack of relationships, and low self esteem. There’s bitterness, resentment, apathy, everything in between.

Favourite lyric:

I guess I should be one to talk
There’s nights that I can’t even walk
There’s days I couldn’t give a fuck
And in between is where I’m stuck.

5. Blue in the Face from Good Mourning

Released in May 2003, this remains one of my favourite albums of all time. There’s a lot to love on it. But Blue in the Face is chief amongst them. Stepping away from the usual style of fast guitars and fast lyrics, this song is acoustic and slow and soulful. There’s a comparison to be made between this song and Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), though I think that Blue in the Face is a more personal, more reflective confession. Listen to them both and make your own mind up.

For me, it’s the ultimate expression of reaching a point of not liking yourself, of not being surprised that others don’t like you and don’t want to stay with you, but with the hopeful note at the end, that maybe, just maybe love will redeem it all. Even me.

Favourite lyric:

I can’t choose. Here’s the whole song –

It’s about time that I came clean with you
No longer fine, I’m no longer running smooth
I thought that I found myself under something new
Just one more line I repeat over and over again
‘Till I’m blue in the face with a choking regret
Because I talk in circles ’round you on my bed
Can’t say I blame you one bit when you kept it all inside
When you left that night

It’s about time that you got sick of me
No longer fun, and so far from interesting
I thought that I found me a cure for feeling old
Just one more line to keep me sleeping loudly and cold
In disgrace with a shameful regret
As I speak in tongues to myself in my bed
Can’t say I blame you one bit when you kept it all inside
When you left that night

And all that followed fell like mercury to hell
Somehow we lost our heads for the last time
And all that followed fell like mercury to hell
Somehow we lost our heads for the last time

And I don’t dream since I quit sleeping
No I haven’t slept since I met you
And you can’t breathe without coughing at daytime
Neither can I
So what do you say?
Your coffin, or mine?

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