Hmm... what exactly can be said about the new Alkaline Trio album, Agony & Irony?

This 2008 release is the band's 6th studio album in their 11 years together, for the first time produced by 90's big shot Josh Abraham (Limp Bizkit, Korn, Crazytown... enough said). Sporting a new primped and polished production sound the band chose the path to a more clean cut, rockier version of their former selves, which is both good and bad. I know, I know, we've heard it all before... another one of our favourite old-time punk bands major label debut packed full of professional production quality and way more mainstream appeal...blah blah blah. What's that I hear you yelling? Sellout? How typical! However, despite all these shameful qualities, if you listen closely you'll realize that this is still the same old Alkaline Trio that you love, but with a smoother sound, healthier vocals, and bigger names backing them on the album. I'm not saying this is the most brilliant piece of work they've done, by far it's not, I'm just saying don't shoot it down immediately because they've upped the quality of their recordings.
Still composed of the same gloomy power pop, typically simplistic and miserable with lyrics that drive you under the covers weeping, half the album will make you thank your lucky stars that the band followed Crimson with this, and the other half will probably put you to sleep.
It starts off strong with a catchy tune called Calling All Skeletons, fairly upbeat and one to get the hair a'flyin. Next comes the single, which is also poppy and enjoyable, with a nice touch of piano in the background and a chorus that kind of sounds like Lovefool's by the Cardigans (Hold me, hold me, come on and hold me). From here it goes downhill a little bit, slower and rockier than you'd expect but not a complete write off just yet. Aside from the first two hits that grab your attention and your heart right off the bat, the rest of the album at first listen might convince you to dig the plastic packaging out of the garbage and try to pull a fast one on that HMV employee to get your money back. I suggest giving it another couple of listens... Third times a charm! The rest of the album is a grower, eventually you'll start to appreciate it more than the first time. Track number 5 titled Into the Night has a lot of potential with groovy guitar riffs shadowed by an even groovier bass line, harmonies galore and poppier Misfit-like "whoaaa whoaaa"'s.
Now this is where I start to waver. From track 6 and onward I find the album becomes a little boring and redundant. It almost sounds as if they were taking a cue from the Offspring's latest with the mainstream appeal and undeniable *yawn* factor. However, the brilliant lyrics are still strong enough that you can't help but appreciate these songs, if you can get through them. Something tells me this album would have made much more of an impact as an EP. The only other check on the "pro's" side of the list is that Derek Grant really comes through full force with the drumming on this album... better production means more powerful drum beats and a lot more range to show his great great skill. One of the best drummers on the scene, he sure shines through as one of the most important factors contributing to this album.
All in all, this isn't going to go down in history as the best Alkaline Trio album of all time, but I also don't believe it will be viewed as the worst. A valiant effort, and a few changes later they are still Alkaline Trio, and they are still loved.... by me anyway.

I'm Sarah. I do what I want.