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Alkaline Trio retains its black humor with major-label release

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In Punk Rock High School, where Against Me! plays quarterback and Anti-Flag runs the debate team, Alkaline Trio often gets caught in the shuffle. The band's too intelligent to hang out with the likes of Fall Out Boy (who get all the chicks) but too emotional to pal around with Rancid or The Unseen.

Luckily, back in the real world, the band's found its own niche, releasing five records over the past decade that'd feel right playing at a comedian's funeral: fatal desperation wrapped up in caustic wit and played with thrashy drums and buzz-saw guitars. And the Trio isn't one to stray from the theme, either; record titles range from Maybe I'll Catch Fire and From Here to Infirmary to Good Mourning. Seeing a trend?

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba, bassist/vocalist Dan Adriano and drummer Derek Grant, Alkaline Trio was never a band to follow musical trends. While today every mallrat with a MySpace page is releasing darkly romantic tunes with clever names, the band's been writing lyrics like "Drive yourself insane tonight, it's not that far away and I just filled up your tank earlier today" since the late '90s.

With the group's latest, Agony and Irony, dropping soon on a major label, a punk fan's got to wonder: When the darkest rock 'n' roll on a major label is, say, Linkin Park, how will the Trio fare with such mainstream bedfellows? Thanks to the magic of leaked Internet tracks, I can safely say the answer is "Pretty damn well."

Through Agony and Irony, the band's got the chance to affect more disaffected youth then ever, and it's got just the songs to do it. The record's first single, "Help Me," is punchy and heavily percussive, with pounded piano and a huge chorus; the tune's already hit the modern-rock charts and, appropriately for a band obsessed with love and death, it's about Ian Curtis.

Alkaline Trio has that rare opportunity to step out of the underground with a record that stays true to its sound -- even punk quarterback Against Me! couldn't pull that one off. (Though, to be fair, "New Wave" was fantastic.) And with Agony and Irony due on shelves July 1, along with a headlining tour to support it, Alkaline Trio may just make the world of mainstream rock a darker place.


Alkaline Trio with Bayside and The Fashion. 7 p.m. Thu., June 26 (6 p.m. doors). Club Zoo, 1630 Smallman St., Strip District. $17.50 ($20 day of show). All ages. 412-201-1100 or www.clubzoo.net

Good mourning: Alkaline Trio
  • Good mourning: Alkaline Trio

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