s the world and people around me frequently conspire to frustrate me, the one question that sticks in the craw is: Where is the music to punch a wall to nowadays? You know what I’m talking about: that weird moment when there’s so much pent-up frustration, anger, annoyance, and whatever trapped inside your veins that you realise that it’s either going to be an assault on masonry or another person’s face. You’re a good person, you’re gonna cause pain to yourself rather than someone else. Does that make you a good person or a masochist? Anyway, so eyes bulging and a hundred thoughts of hate weighing on your mind, you punch that wall. Or a door, bed frame, cupboard side, whatever. And as soon as you’ve done that, you get the slow realisation that pain is taking over from anger. You’ve fucked your knuckles royally. You swear a bit, and then you feel better. Is there any music sound-tracking those moments being produced nowadays, or are we all just happy to make music for The OC, bitch?
Alkaline Trio aren’t just happy to do that. Alkaline Trio aren’t particularly happy about anything. You can talk about maturation of sound all you want: when it comes to the lyrics (and you Tippex lyrics onto your school bag when you’re 15, not chord progressions) they’re still strictly slamming that bedroom door. They are the stand-outs of a genre that two years ago I wanted to name “Margeracore” as an industry standard. It’s a genre where the pop sensibilities of the chart friendliest side of emo get mixed in with Vans-sporting sk8 rock, and so you have the distillation of black nail-varnished teenage guitar-me-do in 2005. Except Alkaline Trio aren’t chasing any zeitgeists here: they’ve been standing in this place since 1997. They’ve just been waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with them.
And caught up they have. It’s 2005, AT are as big as they’re probably ever going to be, and they’ve responded in kind with what will probably turn out to be their career album. Whereas the last two efforts revolved around the (admittedly awesome) pair of singles “Private Eye” and “We’ve Had Enough,” Crimson kicks off with what sounds strangely like the same piano lesson seconds that began Love Angel Music Baby, and then all of a sudden, that bedroom door slams, and it’s adolescence all over again.
Criticising this album because you’re not a teenager is like criticising inhalers just because you don’t have asthma. This may not be for you, but when it hits stride it’s impossible not to get caught up in it. Part of them finally being able to keep the momentum up for 45 minutes wherein the past they struggled to get it up to 4.5 minutes has to rest with the king of the brat-punk crossover, Jerry Finn, who’s behind the boards for this album. As with Green Day, and especially the last Blink 182 album, he understands that self-pity and teen poetry can be enjoyable, as long as you curl every last piece of emotion and anger you can find in the band into a fist, and throw it directly at the wall. Be it Finn, or be it the band having been together for 8 years now, but finally on Crimson they’ve thrown away the last of those 77 punk affectations and have started playing so tight as to cause ligature damage on your neck.
The lyrics still swing from leather-bound notebook pretensions ( “affectations keep us company”) to “Go straight to the headmaster’s office” verbiage (“I’ve got pages of dreams, they’re covered in piss”), and even when they tackle the message board friendly topics of the Manson family (on “Sadie”) and the imprisonment of the West Memphis Three (“Prevent This Tragedy”), they still sound like they’re shouting at mom for not, like, letting them get their nose pierced.
But you cannot help but get caught up in this, and as a special treat, on “Mercy Me” they sound like Fountains of Wayne’s drop-out brothers. 2005 will not produce an album as exhilarating, or as perfectly suited to, and suited to change the lives of, its target market as this. So buy your 15-year-old cousin a copy, and maybe then he won’t be forced to quote My Chemical Romance on his suicide note.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2005-06-08