Alkaline Trio sits in this weird pocket between punk, emo, and goth. They kind of arced towards the latter over their career and I gave up on them after about the second record, but this one, Goddamnit, is pretty brilliant. Fast paced and self-deprecating from the first few notes and balancing two vocalists who both trade a little bit of note accuracy for volume, this record is a study in contrast.
Personally, this album was on heavy rotation in the year and a half after it was released and was the soundtrack to my commute across the San Francisco bay to my almost-minimum wage tech job. I probably sang "My heart floats in the bay" hundreds of times as I drove over the San Pedro bridge in my 1990 Mitsubishi Mirage with the heat blasting so it wouldn't overheat from the probably blown head gasket. And that's where that contrast comes into play again. These are undoubtedly songs of hating yourself, but they're the kind you sing along with because you enjoy your own perceived martyrdom.
When track 6, Enjoy Your Day, rolls around, the self-imposed martyrdom comes to a climax on the first of the two slow songs of the record. "So happy valentines day, I hope the suns out in New York, I hope he bought you roses", is belted out by Dan Andriano, who lisps his way into your heart despite sounding like a puppy who just got caught eating your slippers. And then, the record jumps into the a-little-too-specific love song, Clavicle, yelling out "I wanna wake up naked next to you, kissing the curve of your clavicle!" It sounds awkward to me as an adult, but I'm positive I included that song on a mixtape for someone...
That's maybe one of the shortcomings of this record, it's too on the nose. Listening now it's easy to see that Matt Skiba probably had some issues that he needed to work out ("You told me that you wanna die, I said I've been there myself more than a few times"). And hiding those issues in a little bit more poetry could have made them more palatable to a less depressed audience. Furthermore, and it might just be the relatively neutral headphones I'm listening on, but this recording could use some bass. Andriano's bass work is stellar in the little bits I can pick up, but overall the recordings are completely lacking low-end (where's the kick drum?) and the snare sound on a couple tracks has a ring that is just annoying me. I do enjoy when the singers overdrive the vocal recordings though, that little bit of distortion at the top of their lungs adds to the passion.
And that passion is what make this record fantastic. It's perfect for sunny days driving across the bay when you're worried your car will breakdown and it just affirms that the world is against you but someone else feels the same way and wrote a bunch of loud songs about it that you can shout out the window. And for 35 minutes or so, it feels alright to feel like your life isn't going all that well even when it probably is. Stumble through the first seconds of starting with the band and throw your fist up when the guitar comes in just before you tap out that drum intro and breathe in to belt out "I lost it all!" or "You were the last good thing I ever saw!" Be happy to be a little sad.
3: San Francisco
4: Nose Over Tail
5: As You Were
6: Enjoy Your Day
8: My Little Needle
9: Southern Rock
10: Message From Kathlene
11: Trouble Breathing
12: Sorry About That