Robert Chesley

Alkaline Trio’s “Damnesia” – Review

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I’ve been waited with baited anticipation for this release ever since I heard of it’s existence. I love how Alkaline Trio sounds when they unplug their guitars and sit down and play these songs with a more meaningful tone. The new album, “Damnesia”, collects songs from Alkaline Trio’s catalog and presents them in a mostly stripped down, coffee house way.  So, as a huge fan of their music how did I like it? Let’s find out.

The record starts off with the song “Calling All Skeletons” it has a nice little guitar riff that gets stuck in your head. It sounds really nice acoustic and sets the mood for the entire record. It has a little bit of an electric guitar and a cool bit of groove. I like that we start off with a song that has a “full band” approach. The next one is “Nose Over Tail” which came off their first album. It is slightly slower than I remember the original being. But it features the same charm that it’s had over 13 years later. I like this one much better in its stripped down acoustic tone. Sometimes the electric version just succumbs to how loud they can play. The next song on the list introduces us to a piano driven song. “This Could Be Love” was one of the band’s breakout hits from “Good Mourning” instead of being a fast punky song they turned it into a mostly piano and drum driven slow song. I love the piano, but I feel the song is meant to be played with loud and fast guitars. This is the first song on the record that I really dislike the arrangement. I could have sworn that “Every Thug Needs A Lady” was actually a fake song title. I’m a pretty big Alkaline Trio fan, but this song got lost in the shuffle so to speak for me. It is in fact a real song. I could have sworn when I heard the acoustic version of this song that it was already “acoustic” but it wasn’t. This is one of my favorite tracks on the record and one that I will be playing over and over. The next song on the album is a song that is very sentimental song to me, especially when it was first released in the late 90s. I love the arrangement and how how the guitars sound in this song. The first song on the record to really embrace “chorus” sounding guitars. “Mercy Me” best describes the latest incarnation of Alkaline Trio. This song sounds a lot like the original even with an electric guitar in it. The chorus gets a full bodied treatment with the deep sounds of the acoustic guitars. This song shows off the dueling vocal styles of Matt Skiba and Dan Andrino. Next comes probably my favorite track on the entire disc, “The American Scream”. It has a haunting sound to it with just vocals and piano. I love how it starts and how Matt’s voice sounds over the piano lines. This song benefits the most from the slower pace. It was one of the standout tracks from their last LP “This Addiction”. I would have liked to see them keep it slow for the entire song, but towards the end the full band comes in and finishes out the song.

We go back to “Good Mourning” with “We’ve Had Enough” this sounds most like a traditional Alkaline Trio song with just acoustic guitars. I love the original song and I love this version. Next we have a song they typically play live. “Olde English 800” is about what else, Olde English 800, it is a love song of sorts. It’s a silly little quick song that is fun to listen to. Next we have a Violent Femmes cover, “I held her in my arms” is one of the more interesting songs on the record. It uses a variety of instruments that Alkaline Trio seldom uses. I really like this version of the song, sounds a lot like the original. Skiba’s voice is easier to listen to. “Blue in the Face” is one of the most popular Alkaline Trio songs. Everytime they sing this song live, everyone gets involved and sings it. This one again sounds much like the original recording, but it also makes for one of the best songs on the record. The re-record of this one sounds a lot better than the original. We’re reaching the final few songs of this record, onto “I remember the rooftop”. Dan takes the lead vocals on this one. His voice caters more to the acoustic nature of these songs more than Matt’s. This song is just Dan and a guitar and it features a lot of the quality of the love songs that Alkaline Trio is known for. The lyrics “Right there on your couch you loved me too” is one of my favorite lines from the band. And the notorious “Dexter” song, “Private Eye”. This is another song that takes a nontraditional arrangement to the song. I love the “echos” throughout the song. This has one of my favorite “choruses” from the band. This also shows a little of the macabre that the band is known for. “You’ve go so far to go” one of the lesser known tracks from “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire”. I love the chorused guitars in this one. I really love that effect with many of these earlier Alkaline Trio songs. The next track is fan favorite “Radio” also from “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire”, I really like the slower tone and pace of this song compared to the original. But the song is such a fan favorite I can see how many fans will dislike this arrangement of the song.

Acoustic. Sometimes a stripped down acoustic record is what a band needs to stay fresh. This one accomplishes this.
Discography spanning. Although, a disproportionate amount of songs come from “Good Mourning” most of the “eras” of Alkaline Trio are covered.
Different Arrangements. For the most part I loved the new arrangements of some of my favorite songs.
Short. This is coming from the Alkaline Trio fan in me. I wanted at least twenty tracks on this, but we get a solid fifteen.

Bottom line, if you are a fan of Alkaline Trio, you’ve likely already purchased this record. If you have never heard of Alkaline Trio before, you would get a great feel for the overall discography from this release. I’ve listened to this record over and over for the past few weeks and there are rarely any songs that I “skip”. I feel a lot of their songs translate very well acoustically, not all punk bands can say the same. You can buy the record Here
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Tracks to skip: “I remember a Rooftop” and “You’ve got so far to go”  those two are the only ones that I can see myself skipping over when I listen to the entire record.

If you could only download three tracks which ones would they be:  “The American Scream”, “Every Thug Needs A Lady”, and “We’ve Had Enough”.  These are far and away my favorite tracks on this record. Coming in right after them would be “Clavicle” and “Calling All Skeletons”

“The American Scream”

A copy of “Damnesia” was NOT provided for review. This reviewer listened to the record about five times over the course of a week to formulate this review.

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