Why I No Longer Like Alkaline Trio.

or: Why any alkaline Trio after Maybe I’ll Catch Fire isn’t worth your time

So the story goes like this.  Some dude told me about this awesome band called Alkaline Trio around late 1998/early 1999.  I hated emo, and that guy said they were emo, so I hated them by default.  (Note: they weren’t honestly, truly, fully emo . . . more pop punk with an emo flavor pack added.)  I think I only heard about three seconds of one of their songs (“Cringe,” to be specific) until I caught them at a show on October 2, 1999, at the now-(locally)-legendary Asylum in Springfield, Illinois.  (I remember the date because it was my friend Skip’s birthday, and lead singer/guitarist Matt Skiba worked “Happy Birthday Skippy” into one of the songs).  So after that show, I was completely sold on them and they became one of my favorite bands.  It was during the “woah”s in the Dan Adriano-fronted song “Message from Kathleen” that I knew I was a fan.  A big fan.

I bought all of their releases; I couldn’t keep them out of my CD player; I made every attempt to see them at nearby shows; I had a band around that time and it can safely be said that the Trio was our biggest influence.

What made them so good was the honesty in their music.  The lyrics, be they by Skiba or bassist/vocalist Dan Adriano, were deep but accessible, profound but simple.  Dark themes were abundant in their songs, but, as I said, they had an honesty to them.  The music had a punk rock grit to it, was poppy enough to go down easy, but wasn’t so over-the-top that it felt cheap.  Their image was that of three guys who liked playing music together–it was almost as if they were as shocked as we were that it was so good, and they enjoyed it just as much.  From the end of 1999 to early 2001, there was no band better in the Midwest than Alkaline Trio.

Pictured: the good ol' days

But all good things must come to an end.  The legend, which I’ve had “confirmed” by people that knew the band, is as follows:  around the time that Alkaline Trio was making the switch from Asian Man Records to Vagrant Records, drummer Glenn Porter’s girlfriend left him for Blake Schwarzenbach, lead singer of early emo pioneer band Jawbreaker, and then-emo band Jets to Brazil.  Well, Porter was a little upset by this, so he crapped in a box and sent it to Blake in the mail.  Word of this got back to the heads at Vagrant, and they told Skiba and Adriano that they wouldn’t have a band on their label with a member that would do something like that–so he was ousted and replaced by former Smoking Popes drummer Mike Felumlee.  We fans were sad about that personnel change, but after seeing a few shows with Mike, we were pretty sure all would be okay.

A few months after Porter's replacement, circa early 2000, at The Side Door, St. Louis, Missouri (taken by me)

But they wouldn’t be.  Their third EP, a 2-song vinyl release called Hell Yes weirded out a lot of fans with its b-side, “My Standard Break From Life,” which sounded more akin to being a Green Day radio hit.  I was worried to say the least.  Yet a few months later, in late 2000, Vagrant Records released the still-awesome Another Year on the Streets sampler, boasting two songs on it that would be on the new Trio album, “Bloodied Up” and “Crawl.”  In short–they were freaking awesome.

All of my worries were cast aside and I got really excited about the new album, which would be called “From Here to Infirmary.”

Wait, what?  What kind of name is that?  A pun?  It was like some lame attempt at being dark and clever at the same time, except in the way that some out-of-touch, 40-year-old rocker would do it.

And then . . . “Stupid Kid.”

It was a complete betrayal to everything we had understood Alkaline Trio to be up to that point.  Where “Cringe” punched you in the gut with its raw energy, “Stupid Kid” asked you to dance around with jazz-hands.  Where “Bleeder” cut like a knife with lines like, “Woke up to my daily headache and the realization that you are gone; oh my sweet darling happiness, you’ve been away from me all along,” “Stupid Kid” spread icing with lines like, “Remember when I said I love you? Well forget it, I take it back.”

And the album didn’t stop there.  There was the baffling crap-piece “Private Eye” that, unless I’m missing some deeper meaning, is really just Skiba rambling on about some childhood fantasy.  There was Dan’s odd one, “I’m Dying Tomorrow,” in which he asks, “Did I did I at least try to kiss the prettiest girl at the right time?” There was “Armageddon” that seemed like it was born out of high school hallway angst,  “I wrote the words to this song on the back of a photograph behind your back; it goes a little something like this . . .” And what about the two songs “Bloodied Up” and “Crawl?”  They altered them.  They added in vocal effects and did different takes for the album version that softened them and polished them to that crisp, Good Charlotte-shine.

Something had happened.  Not only did the music  lose its edge, but the lyrics became artificial.  There was no connection with the band anymore in the songs they were singing because they weren’t real about it.  The new album felt like an act.  A role.

At the time it was easy to make Mike Felumlee the scapegoat for the band changing, but I’ve since gotten over that.  Felumlee’s alright by me on his own, or with other groups (especially The Smoking Popes).  The truth that I didn’t want to admit at the time is (I think) Skiba and Adriano saw the opportunity to take their band to the next level, and they did it the way they know how.  The way that pretty much any band anymore knows how: pick an image, run with it, and turn up the pop accessibility to your music.  Since the Trio was already known for being dark with a poppy edge, they picked that as their image, but turned it around, so that they were poppy with a dark edge.

Not long after that, Mike left the group for some reason, and was replaced by the current drummer, Derek Grant.  Grant was already established in the punk (and ska) scene of the mid and late 90’s, having played in groups like The Vandals and The Suicide Machines, so his joining of the group was a little like the cred Blink 182 got when Travis Barker joined.  (And before Enema of the State, that was honest punk rock cred that Barker brought Blink).

At this point in my fandom, I felt pretty disconnected from them.  I saw that a new album was coming out so I decided to get it in hopes that things would have swung the other way.  The album would be called Good Mourning. Sigh.  Again with the stupid pun.  Can you see what I’m getting at here?  They went from I Lied My Face Off and Maybe I’ll Catch Fire to From Here to Infirmary and Good Mourning.  If that’s not trying to play a made up part, I don’t know what is.

Well I got the album, and it was actually pretty good.  It wasn’t as . . . “fluffy” . . . as the previous album.  But for all that was okay and good about it, the magic of the earlier releases was still gone.  While a lot of the excessive pop had been removed, the slight return to the original feel of the group, just a little more polished, seemed artificial, now.  And on top of it, the lyrics were just as bad as before–if not worse.  “This Could Be Love,” the opening track, is really the best example of their catalog to that point of trying to be dark for dark’s sake:

Step one — slit my throat
Step two — play in my blood
Step three — cover me in dirty sheets and run laughing out of the house
Step four — stop off at Edgebrook Creek and rinse your crimson hands
You took me hostage and made your demands
I couldn’t meet them so you cut off my fingers, one by one

That’s sick!  That’s accessible to sociopaths.  What happened to the dark edge they had before?  Here’s an excerpt from one of their songs from Goddamnit that perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about when I say “dark edge” and not “gross.”

You t0ld me that you want to die
I said I’ve been there myself more than a few times
And I go back every once in a while
You called me lucky; you called me lucky

You said tonight is a wonderful night to die
Asked how you could tell,
you told me to look at the sky,”Look at all those stars,
Look at how goddamn lonely the stars are . . .”

It’s one or another
Between a rope and a bottle
I can tell you’re having trouble breathing

‘Cause you’ll never be okay
You’ll always be in pain
You’ll always feel this way
‘Cause things they never work out right
The wrong way, the lonely way
You’ll always be in pain

You told me that the daylight burns you
And that the sunlight was enough to kill  you
I said, “Maybe you’re a vampire.”
You said that it’s quite possible, “I feel truly dead inside.”

Do you see what I’m saying and trying to contrast?  They’re both dark, but “Trouble Breathing” has a sincerity to it.  It feels real, like it was written out of an actual, painful conversation with a long-time friend.  “This Could Be Love” sounds like he just got done watching a Saw movie, though it was written long before those movies came out.  “Trouble Breathing” is clever and uses subtlety.  “This Could Be Love” is artificial.

The long-term problem with Good Mourning, I found, was that it grew tiring after a while, and any enthusiasm for the Trio it restored in me fizzled out long before their next album, Crimson, was released.

Sigh.  Crimson.  I’ve still never made it through the whole album.  I appreciate the drama and the power behind the opening track “Time to Waste,” but it’s an otherwise empty song.  The actual first song I heard from the album is “Mercy Me.”  An old friend played it for me, we listened to it, and we laughed hysterically before turning it off.

I used to long for broken bones
I used to long for a casket to call my own
I never had a problem facing fear
but I’m done, over and out my dear and

Oh mercy me
God bless catastrophe
There’s no way in hell
We’ll ever live to see through this so
Drive yourself insane tonight
It’s not that far away and I just
filled up your tank earlier today

Get it?  They’re DARK!  OOoooooo!  Caskets!  Insanity!  Broken bones!  Spooky!

That marked the end of my Alkaline Trio days, for sure.  Several years later I picked up the B-side collection Remains so I could have some elusive comp-only songs like “Jaked on Green Beers” and “Queen of Pain,” but honestly I barely listen to any of it anymore.  And what have I caught in my peripheral vision since then? . . .

. . . this . . .

. . . this . . .

. . . and this.

Those are Nikes, by the way. 

I’ve written several things on the twisting and perversion of emo music from honest, talented post-punk into some watered-down, shopping mall, pseudo-goth trend.  The Trio is riding that wave big time.  In the older days, they did have hints of that dark imagery in their merchandise and album art.  At the time it was something of a joke, because they didn’t sound remotely like a band that would use that kind of stuff for their look; there was a cheeky irony to it.  Well it’s apparently no longer a joke.  It’s clearly no longer intended to be irony.  Now the attempt at cleverness has turned into the fashion sense of spoiled, middle-class teens and 20-somethings who think they’re dark and brooding when they paint their fingernails black and listen to catchy guitar hooks and poppy melodies with lyrics about feeling dark and brooding.  And Alkaline Trio is the justification for the association.

So two albums have come out since Crimson.  I’ve not heard anything on Agony & Irony nor the most recent This Addiction.  I don’t care to.  I’m moving on to other, better things.  At least the album names have dramatically improved.  But since we’re here, let’s take a moment to listen to a song from their newest album . . .

. . . hmm.  It sounds put on, still.  The intro and verse started to grab me, but that chorus ruined it, and the lyrics STILL sound generic.  Also the kids in the video are awkward. . . . Well, I’m done.  So long, guys; enjoy your success, and then don’t take it too hard when you end up the butt of every Hot Topic joke.  You already are, actually, as you’ve clearly drifted into that inescapable prison of self-parody.

Oh, and nice eyeliner, Matt.


94 responses to “Why I No Longer Like Alkaline Trio.

  1. i love goddamnit….thats about it

    • I would suggest listening to their self-titled b-side collection from 2000, which had the EP’s Sundails, For Your Lungs Only, and I Lied My Face Off. Spectacular stuff, and I would argue that I Lied My Face Off‘s four songs are better than all of Goddamnit‘s. I also love Maybe I’ll Catch Fire but I get that some people don’t because it is considerably more mellow.

  2. Aww, dya wanna tissue?

    For someone who hates emo you don’t have cry an awful lot.

  3. “Trouble Breathing” is about a friend of Skiba who committed suicide, just to let you know.

    And neither Skiba nor Dan kicked Glenn out of the band. Yeah, they were pissed he shit in a bag and put it on some dude’s doorstep, but Heather was (and I believe still does) working with band and they weren’t going to kick her out for breaking up with Glenn. So ultimately it came down to Glenn saying, either she goes or I go.

    You give a very detailed reflection, it’s respectable. I’ve happened to be a Trio fan the past 10 years and there has been undoubtably a change in musical style. I just saw them in Oakland a few days ago and they had a killer setlist.

    • Thanks. I tried my hardest to really grasp in prose what it was that changed–it’s good to know it seemed to come across. And thanks for the insight on what happened with Glenn.

      Speaking of what Trio songs are about, have you ever heard anyone speak with the utmost confidence that “F*ck You Aurora” is about a friend that died in a car crash, and won’t be told otherwise? I have. I try not to let it get under my skin . . . but it’s so hard for me to know people are wrong and to let it be.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. It made for a good read I’ll give you that but I completely disagree with your statements about them becoming safe and to a certain degree a somewhat mainstream stereotype.
    Switch the radio on, tune in to a “Top 40” chart, and listen away. The generic bullshit that comes out of Rhianna’s mouth is painful to listen to let alone analyse. Most music nowadays is about drinking or clubbing. So few artists express their desires, fears, emotions that there is so much wasted potential.
    Trio’s lyrics are personal in a subtle way; and so what if they embrace a poppy satirical style – maybe they intended to for mock purposes?
    The beauty behind their lyrics – even in recent albums – is that people can still relate to their words. Radio is a perfect example. We’ve all been heartbroken and loathed our ex such reason. We get angry, upset, mournful. We put music on in hope that something will scream out to us which is familiar to our suffering and help us through the rough times. How can you heal listening to a nobody sing about Fireflies?
    As emo, conformist or even “tame” Trio may be today, they still reach out to people.
    Thanks. H

    • Thanks for reading, Helen. Of course I disagree back. Naturally the “top 40” crap is just that and has been for a very long time, but I find that irrelevant. Allow me to illustrate why using a guitar analogy . . .

      If Gibson’s guitars declined in quality to the point that they were equivalent to a $200 Godin or bottom-of-the-line Squire, those of us who care would still have reason to complain even though they were still better quality than a $90 First Act you could buy at Wal Mart.

      I hope that made sense. Or! Or! If the upcoming third Chris Nolan Batman movie turns out to match Batman Forever in quality, fans still have reason to be upset even though it still tops Batman & Robin.

      I get that they still have fans and people still connect with them, but I see what I see and I even surprised myself when I wrote this by how well I was able to explain their decline as I observed it first-hand. So agree to disagree, but regardless thanks for being articulate and mature in your comment. It’s less than we can say for others here.

  5. For someone that doesn’t like the Alkaline Trio anymore, you sure gave a shit enough to right a 3000 word cry baby fest.

  6. This is everything I’ve thought about Alkaline Trio since around the release of Good Mourning,but have never been able to really put into words. I became a fan around 1999 as a junior in high school and they quickly became my favorite band. I thought From Here… had its moments, although there was no denying something seemed off with the record as a whole. They really lost me with Good Mourning and I haven’t been able to get through a full release since. The whole thing is just so cheesy and feels 100 percent calculated. It’s like every single song has to have the word “skeleton” in it.

    I will say though that I caught them at a small bar show in Long Beach, CA a few months back and despite being surrounded by 21 year drunk bros yelling “Stupid Kid” in between every song, their setlist was actually really solid and I’d say 3/4 of it was pre-Good Mourning songs. It was the first time I’d seen them in almost 10 years and they still put on a great show. Also, they weren’t dressed in matching mortician suits, as they were the last time I saw them.

    Thanks for this. I’ve tried to explain to a friend who discovered them through Good Mourning and she doesn’t really get it. They will always be one of my favorites, as they remind me more than any other music of being 17 and dumb, but they’ve turned into a parody of themselves.

    • Hi JPx. I try to make it a point to respond to all my comments, even if it’s just to say, “thanks for reading,” and I see I’ve neglected to do so here for almost a year. So first, thanks for reading. I’m amused at the anecdote of bros shouting for Stupid Kid at one of their shows, but limited ability to appreciate a broader scope of actual quality material is not an uncommon thing. Hope the last 10 months have been good to you!

  7. One thing to mention is that before Good Mourning, they had that HWM split that showed some promise with the new drummer and 2 new originals that seemed better than everything off “From Here to Infirmary”. I wonder what happened?

  8. I mostly agree. Well written. I think it was the infusion of Grant that truly killed them. They became a Simpsons parody of themselves with the Fright Night costumes and make up – all encouraged by Derek. And the kiss of death was when they began to take themselves deadly seriously (Yes, pun intended) – a very Grant trait. He considers himself an “Artiste” and is excruciatingly pretentious. Keep in mind, this was a guy who sported dread locks and then ditched that for mechanics duds n Buddy Holly frames only months before transforming the Trio into Cris Angels sideshow.

    Two things though- Vagrant had nothing to do with Glenn being ousted. It happened before they were really involved. And while the song doesn’t have the depth of San Francisco or lyrics of F— You Aurora (that damn car), the video for “Stupid Kid” wins. The video still reps that tongue in cheek, Fireside, “yes sometimes we want you to wonder” playful vibe the band had before they became The Spookies.

    • Thanks, BD. Now that you mention it, all of that does fit well with Derek. Regarding the Vagrant thing, though, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. I’ve heard the story from nearly half a dozen people, some of them who personally know Dan and Matt, and that’s the story I got–they were threatened to lose their pending deal with Vagrant.

      • Glenn was out of the band before “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” even came out. (I should know; I booked the band’s second show with Mike Felumlee in January 2000.) The band didn’t sign to Vagrant until a few months later. I have never heard anyone try to pin the blame on Vagrant before reading this piece now. I don’t suppose it’s *impossible*, but I’d say it’s highly improbably.

      • Very interesting. That means he was out less than two months after I first saw them. I may have been adhering to legend and conjecture all these years.

    • Very well said. Small nit, but Aurora is not referring to the car (which is an Oldsmobile) but the city (think Wayne’s World). Also, this was a really well written essay. I don’t totally agree, but our opinions almost follow identical paths. I was a senior when Goddamnit came out, so we have that pretty much in common. I live in Indiana, so I also got to see the Trio play a lot of small shows. It was cool seeing them rise in popularity as well. I disagree about “From Here to Infirmary” as I still think it’s a great album, but otherwise, I think you hit the nail on the head. As for Glenn, I don’t think anything they have done since he was booted has come near their original output. I remember meeting him at some record store in West Lafayette and thinking what a punk rocker the guy was. He was awesome. Anyway, I still give them a listen, still purchase their albums (more for nostalgia’s sake), and still go see them once in a while, but it will never be like it was.

  9. I appreciate your intelligence, however, disagree. There were really good songs on GM…. If we never go inside, fatally your, and every thug needs a lady. I was used to every song on their cd being epic, and obviously…that trend ended around 2003. Agony & irony had a few good ones as well, and if you look real hard on This Addiction (the song itself makes me want to throw up) “I’m fine” was pretty sweet…. i seem to be partial to Dan’s tracks nowadays. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write this.
    Fan since 2002, fell in love with Goddamnit and From here to Infirmary. I also love LOVE love the split with HWM

    • Thanks for reading, and disagreeing maturely. My favorite song on Good Mourning was and still is “Emma.” It’s probably the only song from that album that I’d enjoy in any context.

      • Sorry to jump in here but to sum Alkaline trio live these days. Well they play to backing tracks live now! Enough said really.

  10. I Just listened to Goddamnit and was wondering if they just saw the career track AFI took after The Offspring covered “Totalimmortal” and just said “I want to go to there”.

    • Thanks for reading, Grishek. Can’t say I get the specifics of the analogy, but I think I get your gist. On the subject of AFI, I saw them back when Black Sails was just coming out; I didn’t become much of a fan then but it’s still interesting to think about how far they’ve come and how much they’ve changed since then.

  11. I cant say I agree completely but you have put into words what I have felt about a number of bands. I enjoy everything up to and including Maybe I’ll catch fire so much, everything after I appreciate in a different way (but still enjoy), I’ve seen them five times and rarely dislike a song. I feel similarly about so many bands, the initial burst is so powerfull and raw that the “development of the band” just sounds like their sound being diluted….

    I have enjoyed the music of these bands but feel the honesty of the music has really been lost:

    Bad Religion
    Foo Fighters
    Funeral for a Friend

    and on and on….

    • Bad Religion did a similar thing to me as Alkaline Trio did, starting way back with the release of No Substance. Ugh, I still get my stomach in a twist thinking of that album. And while I loved pretty much everything up to The Gray Race, there was no doubt that each album was slightly better than its successor, with Suffer being the peak.

  12. I love your post. I feel the same way. Alkaline Trio was one of my favorite bands, and Goddamnit is still one of my favorite all time albums. I wanted to add a few thoughts that I had as to how/why their sound changed.

    First off, when they recorded Goddamnit and their early stuff, they were waking up at 6am working regular jobs as bike messengers. You can actually hear the misery in Matt’s voice. After they got big and popular, no more day jobs. That daily “torture” was no longer an element in their song writing. Matt and Dan had so much emotion in their voices in those days, which is what made them amazing. Even though I personally don’t drink alcohol, I would be happy to hear that they would ‘water their guts back to life every night.’ That line makes me smile every time I hear it, because I can identify with grasping onto small things that get you through each day. That “grasping” is not in their lyrics anymore… and if it is, then definitely does not have the same meaning as it previously did. Even now when they play those old songs, I don’t FEEL it. Those words don’t mean the same thing coming from them. It’s like a cover band playing a karaoke version of an awesome song… they might hit every note, but the emotion and feeling aren’t in it.

    Secondly, Those early recordings were recorded at Atlas Studios with Matt Allison. I think he had a big part in keeping their music sounding honest and simple, yet brilliant.

    Thirdly, although Derek is an amazing drummer, I truely miss Glen’s drumming style. He was so original. I have played the drums for several years, and I am always a fan of unique styles. Glen had such amazing beats and fills… that didn’t quite always fit the time signatures, but thats why they were brilliant. I don’t know if that makes sense to non-drummers (or even to drummers, for that matter). Derek is a flawless drummer… perfect… like a drum machine. But thats why I don’t care for his drumming. It has no personality to it. Alkaline Trio definitely changed when Derek entered the band. Yes, they became a ‘tighter’ band in some ways, but they also lost character. As for Mike’s drumming on “From here…”, I actually don’t hate that album as much as some of the other people on this thread. His drumming had character too, and some of those songs on that album are among my favorite Alk3 songs.

    So, in closing, I think that it was multiple factors which contributed to Alk3 losing their character. They still churn out some good songs… but they are definitely not the same band who could get me through a miserable day.

    • That’s actually a very insightful suggestion. How many other groups experience the same thing? That once they’re famous and rich and don’t have to struggle like they did before, find that their muse is gone? Maybe rock bands should stick to songs about drugs and girls like they did in the big-hair 80’s.

  13. Whilst they have had some moderate success, they’re hardly successful to the levels of Blink 182 or Green Day.

    As i understand it, most artists write songs for themselves, not for anyone else. Whilst stupid kid is almost certainly an attempt at recording a song to appeal to a wider audience, not one other song on From here to infirmary has that ‘Mass appeal’ which you apparently have beef with.

    The fact is, people change, this gets reflected in peoples songs. what was once an issue worth writing about is no longer and issue or has become such an issue that it’s too painful to write about.

    Don’t be down on dudes for not writing the song that YOU want. Write your own songs if thats what you want….OR….continue to listen to the albums you do like, don’t listen to the ones you don’t like and move on to something else instead of bitching about it on the internet. Whilst you do have a right to have an opinion on whether or not you like a song/album. You have absolutely no business suggesting that some artists only write songs to try and sell records and that is even more so with Alkaline Trio because in the grand scheme of things, they haven’t really sold that many records.

    I would suggest that you open up your ears to different flavours and types of music, because if you remain in the ‘I only like my independant, underground punk that not many people know about’ you’ll find that most of your favourite bands will eventually dissapoint you.

    • Oh, Marc. It’s very hard for me to hide my contempt for snobs who purport to be ambassadors of music tolerance, yet are actually having arguments with the straw men in their minds–but I’ll do my best. I’ve been having the conversation you’re trying to start for well over 15 years, now, and while (whilst?) I’m going to reply to your comment, I’m going to keep it simple and hopefully brief (though with me that’s very unlikely). But know I could go on for hours with what you’ve given me. Here’s an easy-to-read, numbered response:

      1) Degree of success is a matter of perspective. It is also limiting on your part to suggest that a band who has not reached the level of worldwide super-stardom is not eligible for harsh critique, especially from early and/or devoted fans. The Trio’s influence on other bands is very real, their impact on me and my friends in those days was very real, and the degree of the let-down of their latter-day sins was very real. I do not base my opinion of the value of a band and their repertoire on their commercial success, nor have I since my early adolescence. I judge a band on the quality of their songwriting and musicianship. And on how arrogant they are if it ever comes up, but that’s a topic for another post.

      2) I’m so weary of people saying things to me like “people change” as if a) that excuses anything anyone could ever do to whatever end, b) I somehow lack that understanding, and c) saying it isn’t completely a faux attempt to sound worldly and wise (kind of like ridiculous overuse of the word “whilst”). The inevitable changing of a band, songwriter, musician, or artist through time is not exemption from critique, and it is not always a formula for quality growth, maturation, and evolution. It is fallacious to suggest that what the Trio became from Infirmary forward is entirely genuine or heart-felt, and just the same to insist that I have no right to be upset about it.

      3) The fact that you think that my solution to my dissatisfaction with the Trio’s post-Infirmary artistic choices is to “bitch about it on the internet” tells me that you have not understood what this post is really about. Thankfully most of my readers do not share that with you, even those who disagree with me.

      4) Assuming that I’m a popularity-rejecting hipster is incorrect. Please be careful with your straw men, Marc. I don’t know you, but I have a suspicion that the broadness of my appreciation of music would wear you out. I have yet to meet a person who says things to me like, “I would suggest that you open up your ears to different flavours and types of music” that could tell me about kinds of music much beyond pop radio and the oldies station–and anything else they knew, they didn’t understand, analyze, or really grasp–they just “liked it.” So please save it for someone like a naive 12-year-old.

      Thank you for reading.

  14. This is a good post. Do I agree that everything they’ve made since Glenn Porter’s departure has been contrived, lazy, and fit-to-stereotype? Not necessarily, but Glenn Porter has a Keith Moon-esque wild energy that the Trio has been missing since he left. Porter’s drumming is a little all over the place, but it helped create the fun and chaotic pop-punk-house-party feel of the first few Trio releases. Porter is a little sloppy, but for my money, he’s the most creative and sonically important pop-punk drummer, period. Give me a drummer like Porter over a more technically proficient guy like Derek Grant any day.

    • Thanks for reading, Sean. I agree down the line about Porter. He was the first drummer I learned to be excited about and heavily impressed by . . . interestingly enough, the second was Keith Moon.

      • “He was the first drummer I learned to be excited about” is the perfect way to put it. I still have a pair of drumsticks Glenn gave me from the first time I saw the trio. One is broken (you know, from rocking the f out), but it doesn’t matter. I went thinking I was going to be staring in disbelief at Dan (my idol at the time) but stared at Glenn most of the time instead. He really was exciting. I’m coming off sounding like a fan boy, but I WAS a fan boy. It’s hard not to look back on those times with the best of memories.

  15. Cesario Martinez

    I am a fan of Alkaline Trio then and now. I do understand and like the opinions you have expressed here and the insight to there music as it has changed. From my point of view I do see a band that has evolved into two different bands. A person that would judge alkaline trio’s earlier albums against there recent albums would be almost like judging apples and oranges. What I mean is when I first heard Goddamit I was a fan, but when I heard Good Mourning it was not at all what Goddamit was nor did I pretend it to be in my head. What I expect from Trio after all these years has changed into a an understanding that they are not what they once were, but that’s okay, because I find myself appreciating there albums within there own contexts. Sure some albums I like more than others and some albums have a clear superiority over the others and it is as it should be. But Trio will always strum a chord in my soul that will sound out in what ever they do.

  16. I have to agree with this 100%. I got into alkaline trio at a young age and loved their music from goddamnit maybe I’ll catch fire and from here to infirmary…loved their dark lyrics. I’d say from good mourning on I noticed shorter songs, alot of repetition…I just went to a show last night hoping to catch some older songs and have some beers with a mellow crowd…there were drunk 21 year olds everywhere moshing to alkaline trio..it was a sad moment. However they did play some good stuff but I truly am dissatisfied with what they’ve become . I haven’t even given their new shit a chance.

  17. Hot Topic joke indeed. As incongruous as it may seem/sound to those who discovered them in the late 90s while in their late teens, an early Alkaline Trio actually played my loft for my 36th birthday party 16 years ago for FREE. Still got the t-shirt, but the For Your Lungs Only cassette has long since crapped out.

  18. I don’t entirely agree with everything you said but I did find it interesting to read and it has given me another point of view that I hadn’t thought about before. Alkaline Trio has been my favourite band for a long time, but I think nowadays it’s more out of respect and guilt than love for their music. I have to admit I like a lot of the songs that you don’t but don’t feel as connected to them as I used to.

  19. Glen’s poo nbox was better than yer blag post. idiot.

  20. Reading this article makes me want to cry and say thank you at the same time, Alkaline Trio was my first concert at around the age of thirteen (now 27). I fell in love with the band, they played at Illinois State University in the Braden auditorium( a small venue). They band list to this day is the best i have ever experienced (and I’ve been to a few shows). From Allister, The Red Hot Valentines, I believe Tsunami Bomb was their and the Trio. The set list was a mash of their self titled and goddammit, they started their set with “Cop” and ever since then i was hooked. Why i said what i did in the first line is because i was looking to see if they put out anything worth while after maybe I’ll catch fire, To my dismay I found nothing. I followed this empty feeling up with typing in Google “Alkaline Trio sucks now” and found your post, It sums up my feeling to the T. I really want to grab Matt by the neck and say what happened, you were such a inspiration to me and your tongue in cheek way of putting things at the beginning was second to no-one. I could go on for a while, but I just wanted to say thank you i really appreciate your post, its nice to know I’m not the only one that feels the way i do about their music now.

  21. Clearly you are just a judgmental retard that doesn’t see the point behind the lyrical messages behind their music. I’m sorry, but are YOU a artist?
    Are you out there making music videos? Are you out there making a change in the world? No, you are not.
    To use AK3 as a butt end of hot topic jokes are quite childish and foolish, for if you even knew the slightest information about the world today, you would of noticed that Hot Topic [Hot profit] No longer carries Alkaline Trio ANYTHING, along with Marilyn Manson, and many other “dark” bands.

    I suggest before you open your gob again and let irrelevant bullshit fall out of it, be sure to check to make sure everything you are saying is true. Because right now, all you sound like is one of those emo kids that bitches about how emo everyone thinks they are.
    Shut up, and go do some research.

  22. Wahwahwah. Don’t know why I should ever take music advice from someone that hates any emo band “on principle” without ever even hearing them. That’s a pretty narrow minded attitude to have. And excuse you, you can’t tell someone else what to like.
    Everything after that was “waaah i like the OLD stuff better before they were COOL a blah blha blooo”

    • I originally wrote this to be autobiographical in nature, but I think the things I enjoy the most about it are the nerves I hit with the contra-music police. Thank you for the comment.

  23. Andrew Robinson

    I’ll be pretty basic hear, just using logic from an actual fans brain.. Simple things like From Here to Infirmiry.. They are Fans of the Clash.. Two years before that album, there was a live compilation released from the Clash that was called, From Here to Eternity.. Alkaline does this fairly regularly: die die my darling by the misfits- dine dine my darling by alkaline, mr chainsaw is written about I Don’t Wanna Grow up by the descendants, We’ve Had Enough has a direct reference to the Misfits album Walk Among us.. So that brings me to the little rant about how you’re the official authority on what is “a good balance of dark lyrics”, and what is just (and I quote) “sick”! A band that has been influenced that heavily by The Misfits is going to write gross lyrics! Have you ever heard Last Caress by The Misfits? Have you seen the way they dressed and acted but somehow when a band they influenced has “to much emo” going on, it surprises you? But you liked Maybe Ill Catch Fire, so you are alright with completely unredemptive songs about wanting a significant other to be electrocuted in a bathtub, but really dark crazy metaphors like This Could Be Love is just where you (as the authority in these matters) choose to draw the line? That song, This Could Be Love, is a musical masterpiece of their style and I can explain why from an intelligent and musical perspective instead of a dull dim witted bash of hurling adjectives I learned in the second grade like, “that’s just sick!” That song starts in the minor tonality for the key while he’s setting everything up and just keepin it a little creepy but the masterpiece comes in when they chose to write the chorus in the major tonality of the key.. So when the song is climaxing along with the dark lyrics, and you should be utteratly grossed out, you have a happiness behind it, which is the epitome of what they do as a band.. That contrast theme carries over into lyrical choices that sometimes come off as petty and childish, but then they’ll always be ready to spring something really intelegent and or deep/ metaphorical at you.. I love old old alkaline, and sure I have my problems with some tracks on from here to Infirmiry, but they are an emoish/ pop punk band that obviously prides themselves in carrying on the idea of horror punk.. We’re the misfits punk as fuck? Sure they were, but we all know that they’re the reason for a lot of the whole really weird emo projects.. These guys deserve a more personal look into what they do and what they stand for.. I’ve seen them live three times and what I know is that LOvE playing music.. That is so evident and I still feel it from their albums.. This band has not been in decline, they came to fruition of their ability sand style.. Many bands are left and shunned by thousands of fans when they hit that point, because everyone is always looking for “who’s selling out now?” When in actuality they have just progressed which is what a mucisian should do, just like anybody should do within a particular skill set.. “Here it is again and it stings like the first time.. Seems it never ends, double nickels on your dime.. I thought we were friends, I guess it just depends who you ask.. This feeling tends to leave me with a hole in my chest.. Now the time has come, I just wish I could hear it..solid damage done, all this pain all this heartache.. Only just begun, it’s been fun, we were blind deaf and dumb.. There’s a party in my closet, calling all skeletons..” Call that generic all you want.. But I’ll keep seeing that it’s something much deeper, and definitely look further into some lyrics from the album This Addiction cause some of that shit is UNMATCHED within its style..

  24. I come across this post now and then when I have an alkaline trio moment. I have to say every time I read through the whole thing. Its insiteful and well written. The early stuff is untouchable IMHO.
    The self titled ‘tape’ album is the pinnacle for me. Goddamnit & MICF also are outstanding. You can tell the difference in the music style then, just a bunch of guys who didn’t care much for fame but wrote and played music from the soul.
    Overall I didn’t mind a few of their tracks from later albums albeit ‘mainstream sounding’ matt has always had a nack for writing catchy music, but in the same breath the later albums like agony & irony and especially my shame is true are too far gone. MSIT was such a poor album in my opinion!
    I’ll still hold a flame for trio and will forever, I think due to nostalgia but the later stuff is not good.

  25. I never heard that Glenn Porter story. I think with him it was the real trio.

  26. Cool story.

    I’ve followed their career very loosely, but since the beginning. I distinctly remember driving around in a buddy’s car listening to “that guy from Tuesday’s new band”, haha! I knew they went more mainstream since the days of “Nose Over Tail”, but never really thought much about it until today when I read this. That said, I do feel that substance is lost at some point with most bands. You keep going back to that same place to write, but at some point that part of you doesn’t exist anymore—or it changes considerably—so you become a parody of yourself. Take, Axl Rose?

    Oh, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, but this performance embodies everything about growing up going to Fireside. Such a fun, sloppy, friend-centric set:

    • “That guy from Tuesday’s new band.” That’s hilarious; I can relate because the Trio was “The bassist from Slapstick’s new band” to me. The first time I saw them he was the one I was looking for. I caught up with Tuesday late, which has always made me sad because I love that band.

      • haha, exactly. I almost said Slapstick. Best memory seeing them was some weird summer festival in Elgin. Goldfinger was up after them, and he introduced them as “Who’s ready to see Jefferson Airplane?” Or something ridiculous like that. What a [loveable] a-hole that guy is…

  27. (Brendan Kelly, that is)

  28. Wow. What a mature and grown up article… “The guys said they were emo so i hated them by default” What a shame the guys from Alkaline Trio grew up and you didnt. No wonder their music doesnt appeal to you anymore. I cant honestly say I like every song they’ve ever put out, but they have grown and changed as artists and people a few times in the last 20 years, and have always remained a forceful presence. Hopefully you have at least listened to their newest album because it’s incredibly well done.

    I dont understand how you can be so in love with songs like Clavicle and albums like Goddamnit! which features the boys in campy vampire make-up and 666 on clocks on the cover and get mad three albums later because they’re still doing campy shit they find amusing.

    They’ve always been over the top with tounge in cheek metaphors, they’ve always been both dark and poppy. Sure, their sound has changed a bit over the years as they’ve been able to afford nicer equipment, actually spending more than a day in the studio.

    Would you have preferred them not to change and just release 10 albums that are identical to Goddamnit!? That makes for incredibly boring bands like Nickleback who although they have a signature sound also rarely sound any different. Sticking to the formula is not very punk rock, while being true to yourself and playing the music that is in your soul is. No one is the same at 15 and 35. It sounds like they just outgrew your expectations and because you judge everything based on their first album, not seeking outbeach work’s own merit, you didapprove. I’m sorry your favorite band disappointed you by not being stagnant, but that’s no reason to write a giant essay on how no one else should like them either because you’re upset.

    • If you’re not going to read what someone actually wrote then you should seriously question responding. It makes you look silly.

      Also they vehemently deny that the three clocks on the cover of Goddamnit is a reference to the mark of the beast.

      • Actually they confirm that in a documentary about “goddamnit” it’s on YouTube…. Not hard to find at all.

      • Bold of you to make the incorrect assumption that i didnt read your whiny “i’m leaving this group” TED talk when my comment specifically addresses multiple things you mentioned.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        “Something had happened.  Not only did the music  lose its edge, but the lyrics became artificial.  There was no connection with the band anymore in the songs they were singing because they weren’t real about it.  The new album felt like an act.  A role” It sounds to me like you grew out of it. Nothing about their lyrics changed that drastically. Take songs like Fatally Yours and Blue in the Face for example, In Vein and Fine too. The same dark brooding raw emotion of songs you claimed to like. Then take a look at some of the campy songs from albums you claim to like. Tuck Me In is the same amount of cheesy horror camp as most anything on a newer album. As You Were literally has Matt singing about the Wizard of Oz. None of your points about how they’ve changed stand against a light breeze.

        Their newest album Is This Thing Cursed? is a wonderful return to form, although you’ll probably kneejerk hate it because it’s been getting media attention. And if you want even more info about the three clocks and their symbolism, Mike Park (who released the record on his label Asian Man Records) talks about it all the time on instagram and interviews. It was a clock that Heather Hannoura kept on her bedside table when she lived with Matt and Dan. You could do your research before you try to tilt at me, homeslice.

        Also, Matt’s eyeliner is dope as fuck. OF COURSE you’re makeup shaming too. Despite the eye makeup they wore back in the Goddamnit days and Good Mourning Days… 🙄

      • It gives me a great sense of pride and pleasure that an opinion piece–written 8 years ago to reflect on a defining era of my early adulthood–bothers you so much that you feel compelled to write screeds years after the fact. I’m glad you enjoy their new stuff, but some of us grew up and moved on. Have a blessed week!

  29. I happened upon this article by searching “why doesn’t Alkaline Trio get played on the radio” I always thought it was because of their ridiculous claim to being Satan worshippers.

    After reading your article I guess they just suck.

  30. GTFO with all your negative cheap insults about trio, which they are all probably laughing like hyenas over, they feed on this shit so if you thought you were being clever, you missed your mark bro. They are one of the most honest bad ass bands of their time and genre, if you didn’t get the campy satanic jokes that’s cool, it’s not for YOU. so it begs the question why waste so much of your time bashing classics like “private eye” I mean, have at anything after Crimson, besides damnesia and remains. I’m very much considered a music snob too, but I don’t live my life online bashing bands I once liked that I now don’t. Respect musicians, and just think they could be covering Taylor swift songs, but they’re not… so leave em be 👿

  31. braden is a douchebag


  32. What kind of simple minded, vein, judgemental, bag of dicks wrote this piece of shit article. This is 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. This guy’s knows a hell of a lot about fucking nothing.
    Private eye is one my favorite songs mainly because of the awesome lyrics.

    You owe me 5 minutes fucktard!!!

  33. What kind of simple minded, vein, judgemental, bag of dicks wrote this piece of shit article? This is 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. This guy knows a hell of a lot about fucking nothing. Here is some closure, you’re view on music is close minded and ignorant. People like you piss me off because you like to sit on your self made fuckin pedestal and talk shit about talented bands, as if you have all the musical intellect in the fuckin world, when you have never taken the time to write a song, learn an instrument, or you did try and sucked, so you gave up and decided to spend the rest of your life talking shit because you are bitter.

    Private eye is one my favorite songs mainly because of the awesome lyrics.

    You owe me 5 minutes fucktard!!!

    • I’m still keeping the 5 minutes. Also I’ve never understood this attitude about getting mad about someone else’s musical opinion and then throwing out accusations like “when you have never taken the time to write a song, learn an instrument, or did you try and sucked [sic]…” Hilarious, because if anyone knows f-all (edited language for the children) about anything, it’s what you know about me musically.

      Making people like you mad is one of the things I’m most proud of with this blog post.

  34. I’ve been a fan since 2000, found their music comforting during a difficult time for me. I’m happy to say I’m still a fan. Yes, the music has changed a bit but to say that the music isn’t personal anymore is ludicrous, you aren’t them so you couldn’t possibly know. Maybe the lyrics aren’t as deep anymore, I’ll acknowledge that but they are still very talented folks who put on a lovely live show.

    So they “sold out” and began marketing their image and sound a bit, you can’t blame a band who truly loves playing music for doing that, it’s what pays the bills. If not for the change I’m sure they would have all had to put music more on the back burner to support themselves. They made music their career and I for one cannot blame them.

    Maybe I’m holding on to a fantasy, maybe I’m crazy but my love for Alkaline Trio has yet to fade.

    • Am I alone in understanding the nuance between “making music as a living” and what seems to be termed as “selling out?” Why would I ever fault someone for making music as a career? It’s when you go from the honesty of a punk band to something aspiring to the imagery and market presence of KISS that is the problem.

  35. I started listening to Alkaline Trio in 99ish and they are still one of my all time favorite bands. I just actually got the heart snd skull tattoo last week. Anyway, while I do agree the sound has changed a lot over the years and there are some downright awful songs I have to disagree on the lyrics not being dark anymore because i can definitely still find the darkness in them that I’ve always known and loved.

    Also, if I ever make it to another show and i see drunk bros with their tribal tattoos yelling “stupid kid” after every song I will set someone on fire. See, huge influence lol.

  36. Rumjo64@gmail.com

    Now I might get some hate for this, but decade ago…I was that Hot Topic Emo kid. That is actually how I discovered and still love them today. I first discovered Alk3 through songs such as Radio, Clavicle, and Goodbye Forever. As a kid though I found the songs odd, but catchy. Eventually I started listening to Crimson and loved it even though it doesn’t hold up too well today. Then Agony & Irony came out and a girl I liked a lot loved this album, so I did too. Gave it a listen a bit ago and my god…how did I like half those songs. Even nostalgia couldn’t help. But the songs that definitely hold up and relate to me are the first few albums. Goddammit helped me deal with alcoholism and a horrible break up of 4 years. Just so many problems that these songs can relate with me and I can believe these guys felt the same way. It just seems that Goddammit, Split 2002, and the Alkaline Trio 2000 comp are the real deal. Just my opinion, but I just don’t feel the same honesty in other albums or bands.

    Looking for bands with these kind of lyrics and sound, so if anyone knows hit me up.

  37. I’m sure this probably won’t be read by anyone at this point but I just figured I’ll leave this here anyway. You’re an idiot. You think it was only because the record label that Porter was ousted? Let’s think about the fact that Jawbreaker may have been their biggest influence first off; their name came from the fact that they were a trio (like their favorite band Jawbreaker) so they wanted to incorporate that in their name and settled on “alkaline” to come before it. You don’t think that you’d be pretty pissed off that your bandmate sent a box of shit to your idol’s doorstep? Obviously you’re so awesomely punk rock. And as far as your view on “my standard break from life goes,” get the fuck over it. When people and bands grow older they don’t have the need (or even the right, honestly) to sing about the same things they did when they were around 21-years-old. Trying to compare them to Green Day with that one song reference shows your ignorance. Oh, and last but not least: Armageddon’s lyrics were actually awesome and heartfelt. That song was written for the fans that were already calling them sellouts because they signed to a “major label.” Do some research and make sure you know what you’re talking about before you post something like this for everyone to see you prick

  38. You’re fucking dumb as shit.

  39. It’s sucks…But many bands get tired and yearn for some kind of return. I mean come on, every person who has EVER picked up a musical instrument did it with this idealogical picture in their mind of sold out shows, panties dropping and mountains of cocaine/money all while touring the world. After ten years and barely scraping by…Maturity…jealously longing for that one hit wonder other bands in the genre ascertain. Many bands have done it. Fuck, Black Flag was in MTV back in the day. Many people said Blink 182 “sold out” or were never “punk”..Fuck that. Cheshire cat is punk as fuck. If you don’t enjoy the music, cool…But unless you dedicate 10-20 years of your life and get nothing out of it but pussy and top ramen noodles… Eventually (if your smart) you will look out for your future

  40. This is petty. Just enjoy the music and stop looking so much into it. Not every song needs to slice you open and make you depressed with such sad and dark lyrics. Personally, I think their music is great. All the way from their first album to their latest. Alkaline Trio will always be a favorite of mine. All bands change, but that doesn’t mean they’re trying to hard, maybe they’re just not as in to writing the kind of music they used to. Writing about sad things can make the actual person themself sad. Maybe they thought it was time for a change? Have a lovely day. (:

  41. I know this is a 7 year old article, however I just found it and was really intrigued by the detail of it. While I disagree with certain aspects of it you can definitely tell the time and thought you put into this. As a fan since I was a kid I understand I may have a unfair bias favoring them. My question though is this, have you listened to their newest album my shame is true? I feel that much of the album has at least lyrically returned to the alkaline trio of old with a few exceptions like “she lied to the fbi” which is just a joke song about a movie. I’m really interested in your opinion on this hopefully it finds you.

  42. Bands hav e to write new material and people grow a d change, so they changed there dress and made a shoe. The misfits did the same thing as well as a hundred other bands. Alkaline trio is the shit, all there songs can be appreciated for what they are and the time it takes to write music. And im so glad ive had sparr time to listen to them. Bad review…

  43. The fact that you made around 2 to 3 paragraphs because of there title name is kinda just fucking dumb, and this addiction has a lot of meaning you should really do more research on the meaning of the songs before you bash on them

  44. You’re the fairweather fan that every musician hates. If you don’t like them, stop listening. Your opinion is yours, their music is not yours. Let them do their thing and shut the fuck up

  45. I’m just having trouble understanding what’s so wrong with From Here to Infirmary… It’s honestly always been my favorite album by them. This morning after reading this article I re listened to Goddamnit, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, and From Here to Infirmary. I get that those first 2 albums are more raw with loud guitars while From Here to Infirmary is more polished but that’s only because they were getting bigger which meant they could afford professional quality recording. I still feel like that album still had that same charm to it like the first 2 did though. It didn’t feel like it was a sell out or too poppy and the lyrics were still great. I think you are just picky and read too deeply into who they are.

    • All I can say in defense of something I wrote nearly a decade ago about things that were approaching 10 years in age then, is that being deeply into the midwest/Illinois punk and emo scenes in the late 90’s and early 00’s gave myself and many of my peers a certain ear. Infirmary was a dramatic shift in a different direction from where the first two albums were heading. I’m sorry if “you had to be there” isn’t very sufficient but it’s certainly has more credence than saying I’m too picky.

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