After 3 years’ waiting, Alkaline Trio’s new album Agony And Irony was finally released in the early summer of 2008. As revealed in the earlier Agony And Irony EP, Help Me, In Vein and Into The Night were the spotlight of the album. Fast, catchy, dark-lyred pop punk Alkaline Trio-signature songs like Calling All Skeletons, I Found Away and Love Love, Kiss Kiss are included as usual. The sound of this album is sort of different from what they did; and if you listen closely to all of their old albums one by one, you will realize they all sound different from one another; from the more underground / indie-sound of From Here to Infirmary to the heavier sound of Good Mourning and the matured composition in Crimson. Having said that, not many songs in Agony and Irony can give you strong impression than what in Crimson can. Let’s see what Alkaline Trio has offered us in different songs.
01. Calling All Skeletons – a catchy, energetic song with typical Alkaline Trio-type lyrics, which is the best thing to start an AT album.
02. Help Me – a pop punk anthem an encouraging message: There’s a “someone” who has chosen to live in his own way, and “I” am inspired and wish that “someone” can save “me” from “my” life and gives “me” the courage to start ”my” own life.
03. In Vein – with Dan Andriano as the vocal and for the first time I feel he performed better than Matt Skiba in terms of vocal performance after all these years. It’s definitely one of the best amongst the album both lyrically and musically.
04. Over And Out – a touching ballad about the Iraq war, which is accurately-positioned after 3 catchy songs, Now listeners can set back and save their energy before the next fast punk journey begins.
05. I Found Away – another anti-war song but with heavier sound and faster tempo. Nice work with good lyrics, a must-listen track and a potential single.
06. Live Young, Die Fast – I have to say it’s the worst song in the album and to reverse a punk motto “Live Fast Die Young” as song title is just… lame.
07. Love Love Kiss Kiss – with Dan Andriano as vocal again but it is just another typical pop song. Not good, not bad, not impressive.
08. Lost And Rendered – a song that deserves HIGH attention in the album. The voice-over intro adds a theatric play taste to it which lightens up the whole song and the war story behind.
09. Ruin It – again, Dan Andriano as the vocalist this time. Strangely, the riffs in the intro has a shadow of the riffs in Sufferer And Witnesses by Rise Against. Clearly this can be the next Alkaline Trio hit if they had pushed it hard enough.
10. Into The Night – the guitar riff after the line “This carrion has been forgotten” (chorus) and between the “into the night… ” (the end) are just too poopy and cheesy and sounds like a random demo had been put into the composition.
11. Do You Wanna Know? – a calm song to end this album. It’s a very Alkaline Trio Crison-era song. Again, thanks for Dan Andriano’s vocal effort.
Lyrically Alkaline Trio have done a fairly good job when compared to other bands in the pop punk genre. I Found Away is particularly stand-out with its against-war theme. Just a few lines is enough to make you feel the harshness and brotherhood in the battlefield.
“Over the fear and through the flames / I’m diving in don’t follow me / Stay right here I’ll be back for you someday” I Found Away, track 5
While with Ruin It, a song about growing and experiencing life has used a pretty cool metaphor to express their message.
“But I don’t wanna let go of my age / Cause it’s the salt, that brings the taste / This scorched and rocky field / Will camouflage my skin” Ruin It, track 10
Overall speaking, their lyrical composition skill is one of the best amongst the modern pop punk scene. You can check out songs like In Vein and Lost and Rendered to test their lyrical ability. Despite all the positive comments above, there are 2 songs in Agony and Irony which are lyrically awful. Live Young, Die Fast – Absolutely cheesy and shallow; and Love Love Kiss Kiss – the first line in the chorus “Love Love, Kiss Kiss blah blah blah” is getting annoying when they got repeated over and over again, and frankly, it sounds like baby mumbling.
To conclude, it’s a better-than-average album. An Alkaline Trio fan will love it, while others might find it dull / boring / not impressive. Lyrically it must be pop punk fans’ cup of tea while musically is still halfway to perfection. Songs with Dan Andriano as vocal are definitely worth to listen to, since, in Crimson or other old Alkaline Trio albums, his vocal performance is never as stand out as Matt Skiba’s. If you like pop punk or want something easy-listening to spend your summer on, this album is a pretty good choice.