For more than 25 years Alkaline Trio has been the archetypal brooding, pop-punk muse casting creepy shadow puppets over the landscape of modern music. But despite inspiring more bad junior high poetry than “Catcher in the Rye,” the band’s discography is not without its high and low points. As such, here is The Hard Times’ definitive ranking of every Alkaline Trio record.
9. Agony & Irony
Let’s just get this out of the way: this is a bad record. Coming about at the height of Matt Skiba’s steampunk vest phase, “Agony & Irony” sounds like less of an experiment from an evolving punk band and more like a coded cry for help from the krautrock muppet they kidnapped to write it for them.
Play on Repeat: If we really had to pick a track, “Calling All Skeletons” is not without its charms.
Skip: The rest of the album.
8. My Shame Is True
There really isn’t much to be said about the tenacious blandness of this album other than it does finally prove you can hit a point of diminishing returns on the whole spooky pun schtick. Like, these guys have always had some pretty goofy album titles, but this one, much like the album itself, feels like the fatigued barrel-scraping of a band who were just ready to bail out of the studio and go get some jalapeno poppers at Applebees.
Play on Repeat: “I Wanna Be a Warhol”
Skip: “The Temptation of St. Anthony”
7. Is This Thing Cursed?
After years of piss-poor piddling about, and maybe three or fourteen too many side projects, the band came together in 2018 to make what turned out to be a moderately decent record. And while nothing on “Is This Thing Cursed?” is necessarily gonna blow your dick off the way Alkaline Trio songs used to, before you knew how disappointing actual sex really is, a couple of tracks might just tickle you under your taint and make you appreciate the shoulder shrug handjobs you’ve come to accept from life.
Play on Repeat: “Pabst Blue Ribbon”
Skip: “Heart Attacks”
6. Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
“Maybe I’ll Catch Fire” as a whole is about on par with lackluster later offerings from the band, with the exception of album closer “Radio,” which has gone on to inspire two generations of overly-depressed tenth graders who are already convinced they will never find love.
Thus far we are unable to confirm whether or not the line “shaking like a dog shitting razor blades” is in any way connected to Skiba’s 1998 arrest for lewd conduct at Chicago’s Grant Park bark park.
Play on Repeat: “Radio.” Duh.
Skip: “You’ve Got So Far To Go”
There is an old axiom that goes “you either die the hero or you live long enough to unironically wear a frilly Dracula shirt on stage like it’s just fucking cool or something.” This album represents the band diving headlong into the latter.
Despite all of the Allister Crowley bullshit the band found themselves sifting through at the time, the record itself is actually fairly strong. Tracks like “Mercy Me” and “Your Neck” showcase the band’s ability to write catchy pop-punk songs that still hold up today, even if the shirts remain a huge and unforgivable mistake.
Play on Repeat: “Mercy Me”
Skip: “The Poison”
4. This Addiction
A lot of people are probably gonna scoff at this one, and we really don’t give a shit. If you don’t like it then go write your own list. This one is ours and “This Addiction” is number 4. Go fuck yourselves.
Play on Repeat: “Lead Poisoning”
3. Good Mourning
Before the band delved full-on into frilly Dracula shirt burnout, they dipped their toes into the serial killer end of the songwriting pool and penned “Good Mourning” – penned with a feather tip quill and a well full of blood from all three band members, at least one engineer who worked on the album, and a random intern who just happened to be in the wrong studio at the wrong equinox.
After cracking the Billboard Top 40, and several appearances on late night, it was easy for many longtime supporters of the band to scream sellout. It became far less easy for them however after several critics were awakened in the middle of the night to see a blood-spattered Derek Grant looming over them in their beds, silhouetted by a silver-lined full moon and gurgling at them in a language that had not been spoken in millennia.
Play on Repeat: “Emma”
Skip: “One Hundred Stories”
This album is almost perfect – and if you’re reading this then you already knew that. So let’s just call it like it is and all admit to ourselves that “Enjoy Your Day” is the whiniest goddamn song we’ve ever heard. We have to believe that at some point the rest of the band sat Dan Andriano down to bluntly tell him “you know you’re fucking up this record, right?” Andriano continues to refuse to comment.
Play on Repeat: “Clavicle”
Skip: “Enjoy Your Day.” Sorry, but this track really needs to be scrubbed from Alkaline Trio history entirely.
1. From Here To Infirmary
For some Alkaline Trio fans, “From Here To Infirmary” is the point where the band began turning away from their punk rock roots. However, any Alkaline Trio fan with a brain and a competent sexual track record will note the album as the perfect blend of dark punk ethos and pop showmanship. Though little is known of the behind-the-scenes goings-on during the recording, scattered sources have suggested that the album is the result of chaos magic combined with a deal the band signed at the crossroads. This would explain why drummer Mike Felumlee was sucked into a hell portal at Warped Tour shortly after recording was completed.
Play on Repeat: The whole damn thing.
Skip: How dare you even consider a skip job! Through the hell portal with you!