Friday, January 6, 2017

REVIEW: ALKALINE TRIO'S "MAYBE I'LL CATCH FIRE"

Maybe I’ll Catch Fire is the second full-length album from Chicago rock group Alkaline Trio. Releasing in 2000, the album saw little success…but has since blossomed into a shining example of Alkaline Trio’s ascent into punk stardom.

The content:

Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, speaking strictly on the basis of its production, feels like a microcosm of the entire pop-punk genre.

From the omnipresent bass, to the raw, biting guitars, to the often-humble drum, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire quite literally exudes that low-fi punk sound that has come to define some of the punk genre as a whole. Particularly in the album’s opening track, Keep Em Coming, the garage rock vibes hit like a truck, and it proves effective with the album’s sound. Other tracks, like Sleepyhead, provide a darker, deeper grunge to spice in some variety.

The lyrics within Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, much like the album itself, sound typical of the genre as a whole: retrospective, often angsty, but throaty and raw where it counts. Tracks like Madam Me and Radio feel bratty enough to make an impact (“Warmer than piss, have you ever felt like this?” and “Shaking like a dog shitting razorblades” are two particular lyrics that come to mind), yet at the same time carry a certain intelligence that not every punk song can.

Structurally, some songs feel blander than others. You’ve Got So Far To Go, which starts on a mellow enough scale for listeners to find their groove, feels too simplistic compared to harder tracks on the album. Similarly, 5-3-10-4, a later track on the album, doesn’t feel landmark compared to the dynamic riffs found during some of the album’s front-half highlights.

But then there’s the closer: Radio.

Starting off with a chillingly morose riff leading into a smooth drumbeat, Radio proves to be the album’s highlight as the narrator, during the heaviest chorus on the album, sings of his resentment for a girl. The hatred toward the subject reaches its climax with the titular lyric: “I wish you/Would take my radio to bathe with you/Plugged in and ready to fall.” Radio lulls its listeners to the album’s close, but not before one last bout of scratchy, angry vocals.

Though it might not be absolutely dynamic or groundbreaking, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire proves to be a fine example of some of the better works that came about during the pop-punk surge in the late 90s/early 2000s.

The impact:

While Maybe I’ll Catch Fire wasn’t favorably reviewed upon its release (some reviewers saw the band’s debut, 1998’s Goddamnit, in a superior light), it still paved the way for the band’s current success, particularly before their breakthrough album, From Here To Infirmary, released in 2001.

Though Alkaline Trio would claim success with their third album, its 2000 predecessor would still come to define the sound that not only made the Trio successful. Songs on Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, like Keep Em Coming, set forth the band’s sound that would carry over into Infirmary.

Matt Skiba, frontman for Alkaline Trio, has come to credit their musical sound and tone to his Chicago upbringing, despite his longtime residency in Los Angeles. “When people ask me where I'm from or where the band is from, I say Chicago without a doubt,” said Skiba. “I was born and bred…and it's like any city: It is what you make it and there's assholes and beautiful people everywhere, just don't run with douchebags and you're good.


The future:

Alkaline Trio’s latest album, My Shame Is True, released in April of 2013.

More recently, Skiba has been busy serving as the guitarist and vocalist for blink-182. Filling in for, and eventually replacing Tom DeLonge in early 2015, Skiba has since toured with blink-182 in support of their 2016 album, California.

Skiba, however, is adamant that his involvement with blink-182 doesn’t spell the end for Alkaline Trio. “Once things with Blink cool down a bit, the Trio can go in and make a new record and start touring gain while Blink is on break,” Skiba said in an interview with Daily Record. “It’s such a unique and wonderful position to be in, having two full time bands that people (myself included) are big fans of.”

Next week’s review: Nirvana’s “Nevermind”


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