CD Review of Remains by Alkaline Trio

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starstarstarstarno star Label: Vagrant
Released: 2007
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The first time I heard Alkaline Trio was when I received their split EP with Hot Water Music. I was instantly taken with the tune “Queen of Pain” and subsequently picked up From Here to Infirmary. There’s always been something refreshing about this band compared to its peers. Perhaps it’s because Alkaline Trio sounds genuine with honest-to-God great melodies and rhythms, whereas all the rest just fall somewhere into that emo oblivion that no one but a spoiled 16-year-old who’s yet to experience any sort of real life could relate to.

The band has been around for ten years now, and Remains is their newest release, collecting 22 tracks that have been scattered about various other releases, be they split EPs, compilations, etc. This is the second release of its kind for Alkaline Trio, with the first being their self-titled album on the Asian Man imprint. Also included is a DVD filled with videos, rare footage, and other things that always get thrown into these types of extras. Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan, this is a great little package, and if you’ve never heard these guys, go ahead and pick it up as well, as there are some great tunes on here.

Specifically, the band’s half of that split EP with Hot Water Music is on here, and those three tracks alone are a must. Check out “Queen of Pain” for yourself and see if you don’t turn into an instant fan. It’s seriously that great a song. But things get started off with “Hell Yes,” originally released as a 7” single on Lookout! It’s a little tribute tune to Anton LaVey, and is another instantly likable song with the Trio’s patented dry/deadpan deliveries in the verses and then a great big payoff at the chorus. The B-side, “My Standard Break from Life,” is also included and is perhaps even better than “Hell Yes,” with its uncanny stripped down ‘80s New Wave groove applied effortlessly everywhere.

There are a couple things here that don’t work quite as smoothly, though. “Jaked on Green Beers” finds the band going through a double-time rhythmic groove that just doesn’t suit them as well, and “Dead End Road” teeters precariously on that fine line dividing a great song and something the skater punks would claim as awesome. Unfortunately, it leans too heavily towards the latter, giving the listener a glimpse into what Alkaline Trio would sound like if they were just another cookie cutter emo rawk group.

Luckily, things even back out with fist-pumping, power chord-laden burners like “Old School Reasons” and soaring anthemic blasts of rage in the form of “Fine without You.” And for those wanting to hear the band in a live setting, Remains closes with the trio of “Dethbed,” “My Standard Break from Life,” and “I’m Dying Tomorrow,” which were all recorded during the 2006 “Occult Roots” tour. These three tracks highlight the band in as tight a concert form as they are in the studio, which is saying something in this day of groups being ProTooled to hell and back on their albums.

The DVD will be most enjoyed by existing fans, but newer recruits will dig watching the music video portions. All in all, Remains is proof that some odds and sods collections are well worth the time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you can write great songs and have a tight band to perform them. At any rate, Alkaline Trio should have many more fruitful years ahead since they are an honest band with pure talent, writing the rule books instead of just half-assing it like everyone else. Kudos to them.

~Jason Thompson