When singer/guitarist Matt Skiba announced that he’d replace Tom DeLonge in Blink-182 for the foreseeable future back in 2016, fans questioned the future of Alkaline Trio. Skiba was ditching history with bassist/singer Dan Andriano and drummer Derek Grant, though he affirmed that this wasn’t the end for the project.
Five years since their last effort, the boys from Illinois are back with a critically acclaimed LP, Is This Thing Cursed, and are hitting the road to support it. Here’s why we think you should hit its local date:
It’s different. Alkaline Trio draws from darker influences in punk—think Jawbreaker, Misfits and Ramones. Singles “Stupid Kid” and “Hell Yes” touch on macabre themes pioneered by the former two and the simple conventions of the third. This translates live; you’d be hard-pressed to witness Skiba doing the fabled punk jumps or Grant tossing his sticks. Skiba and Andriano also execute dual lead vocals on songs like “Calling All Skeletons” and “Mercy Me.” Different is good.
It’s mature. While contemporaries Blink-182 and New Found Glory were taking every opportunity to crack dick jokes and pull pranks, Alkaline Trio presented a darker, polished aesthetic that’s been clean—visually and musically—from the jump. Early tracks like “Nose Over Tail” embraced the grotesque and melded it with speedy, succinct syncopation. Since it’s going on two decades as a band, expect to see it live.
It’s solid. The “basic three” are seasoned road warriors who’ve perfected their live show while remaining unafraid to dig into their catalog. In Halloween at the Metro—the band’s 2003 live recording—Skiba and company don priest outfits and fake blood (similar to the From Here to Infirmary album cover) while performing in front of a neon, upside-down cross. The songs were dressed up, too; Alkaline Trio riffed through the minor melodies of deep cuts “Queen of Pain” and the pummeling stomp of “Crawl” with poise and ferocity. Andriano even adds some additional bass noodling during the build up of the latter. Expect similar variations sprinkled throughout the setlist.
It’s influential. Alkaline Trio’s influence has markedly spread to a new generation of punk acts, including Creeper, The Story So Far and A Day to Remember. In fact, the latter invited Skiba onstage in 2016 for a pounding rendition of “Private Eye.” ADTR has cited ALK3 as a persistent influence when it comes to its thematically dark lyrics (“Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”) or ferocity (“Fast Forward to 2012”).
Its new album is good. “I was not officially diagnosed with depression until about three years ago,” Skiba told Rolling Stone, “I just assumed everyone knew.” Don’t let his time spent projecting Blink 182’s feel-good pop punk anthems fool you—Skiba’s not in great spirits, and he’s using Alkaline Trio as a vehicle of expression. The latest album shows the band trading its youthful conceit for a wiser edge, without sacrificing its energy. The midtempo “Goodbye Fire Island” details an environmental dystopia; “I Can’t Believe” is Skiba’s blistering anti-Trump ramble. It’s executed in typical ALK3 fashion: polished, precise and poignant—attributes bound to surface throughout the Brooklyn Bowl show.
ALKALINE TRIO with Together Pangea, Sharp Shock. October 14, 7 p.m., $25-$29. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.