Alkaline Trio – Help Me
from the forthcoming Agony and Irony
The only band tattoo I ever considered getting was Alkaline Trio’s heart logo. It would have been morose but probably appropriate because the Chicago outfit is one band I still love listening to. It’s nice that I can comfortably consider myself a fan of every record they’ve released (some more than others, of course). And while I rarely listen to pop-punk nowadays - high school was a different story – I still keep tabs on Alkaline Trio because, frankly, the group knows how to change with the times without sacrificing artistic integrity.
It’s been almost 10 years since the band released its debut album Goddamnit. Since that decade, the group has seemingly perfected its upbeat yet dark three-chord onslaught. Alkaline Trio songs are typically fast (but have slowed down over the years), short-winded and feature lyrics like, “I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you / plugged in and ready to fall” (“Radio” from 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire). But look closer and there is growth. While the band first began writing songs about hating girls and drinking beer to forget those girls, Alkaline Trio slowly evolved its lyrics to reflect a more morbid tone. Although its approach was always far from peachy, the band transformed from emo punks to a group more influenced, especially aesthetically, by Bauhaus and Joy Division. The evolution was most apparent on 2005’s Crimson, which featured the excellent single “Time to Waste” – a sleek composition that proved Alkaline Trio was willing to mature but not change its melancholic tone.
Today, Alkaline Trio posted the song “Help Me” on its MySpace page. It is the first single from the band’s major-label debut Agony and Irony, due out July 1 on Epic Records. Unsurprisingly, it rocks. More importantly, it is purely Alkaline Trio – all distorted guitars, Matt Skiba’s vocals soar and, of course, those lyrics.
“Did I find you in between
Heaven and Hell again?
Where nothing's what it seems,
it's just as well I plan
on giving me the creeps,
and a farewell to arms, and legs, and heads and all…”
The song should appease both Epic and the band’s dedicated fan base (the Alkaline Trio fan club is called The Blood Pact). It proves the band can write catchy hooks but uphold its most identifiable aspects (guts, gore, sadness, the like). So often, bands make its desires for mainstream success painstakingly obvious (I see you, Pete Wentz). But in the case of Alkaline Trio and “Help Me,” the band members have somehow adapted to its major-label surroundings without alienating the people who got the group its new record deal in the first place. Integrity and responsibility? What concepts!