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"So go plug in your electric blanket.. We can stay in 'till our southern summer wedding day"
2003 subtly saw Alkaline Trio's fourth album come into the light. With 'From Here To Infirmary' proving to be the bands most successful release at the time, 'Good Mourning' certainly had to cater to those ambitious expectations and promise, tenfold as they had to introduce a new member of the band - Drummer, Derek Grant. Somehow though, it seemed to go under the radar of many critics, magazines and websites, escaping any hype, disappointment or critique of any kind. In due course though, GM started to get its sound heard thanks to an official music video for one song and standard single release for another. For me, I was a bumbling 13 year old ready to be influenced by a greater wealth of sound, finding my way in the world of rock music, with only a couple of AT songs under my belt in 'Private Eye' & 'Stupid Kid' - both singles from FHTI. A blind purchase of GM however proved to be one of the luckiest and appreciative gambits I'd ever made concerning music. That's not to say the album caters exclusively to teenagers, nearly ten years later and I still find selections of its songs in my playlists, along with one of my all time favourite songs...
"I don't blame you for walking away, I'd do the same if I saw me. I swear it's not contagious, swear to God it's not contagious.."
3 seconds into 'This Could Be Love' is fresh and surprising due to the use of a 2nd guitar in the introduction (They're called Alkaline TRIO for a reason). It's melody, dark and sinister on only 3 chords, manages a sturdy, palm muted version during the verses where vocalist Matt Skiba recalls his disgustingly sadistic and heartfelt affections in a gentlemanly mannar with "I touch myself at thoughts of flames, I sh*t the bed, I laid there in it, thinking of you, wide awake for days". With each verse, the guitar gains more snap, crackle & pop than rice crispies down to its sweet pull offs and rhythmic breaks. In classic Trio style, the chorus brightly picks up a gorgeously happy tone, using a new set of 3 chords, whilst detailing their maddening violent escapades - "Step 1, slit my throat, step 2, play in my blood. Step 3, cover me in dirty sheets and run laughing out of the house. Step 4, stop at lake Michigan and rinse your crimson hands - You took me hostage and made your demands, I couldn't meet em so you cut off my fingers - one by one". Bassist Dan Andriano holds the notes of the 'steps' with a resolute richness as he echoes the backing vocals. It's only until the end where the pace gets a kick up the jacksey, bells ring out like it were Christmas and Derek Grant attempts to snap both wrists with intense drum rolls. Despite the songs imaginative content, I normally find a sickening urge to sing along to the troubling lyrics. 'We've Had Enough' continues the speed where track 1 left off, keeping the church bells too. "That said, we've had enough, please turn that f*cking radio off. Ain't nothing on the air waving the despair we feel, NO!" is another tempting line to shout out as well. Used as the albums lead single, it's a solid song that anyone can appreciate, although by no means the best of offerings. It also includes some influences in its lyrics mentioning The Misfits song 'Walk Among Us".. worth noting.
"You're in the next room sleeping and I'm, shouting out a song for you"
The first line of 'Hundred Reasons' after a familiar but welcome 3 chord riff. 'One Hundred Stories' the first Andriano song, its a fair break from the energetic dose of a 2-packs-a-day smoking Skiba. It's lyrics ressemble that of album and title track 'Maybe I'll Catch fire' considering its suicidal thoughts of despair, ("No one could tell even if I fell 100 stories straight down") but this time has a twinge of pleasantries as Dan delicately urges you to "Dream a good one tonight". The use of hammond organ, as delightful as it sounds, gives an almost gothic twist to the proceedings. Contemplations of killing himself and musing over what Hell is like, Dan closes the song in contrasting mood as Skiba etches out the previous sweet dreams shtick and he tells that he "was getting bored with hurting himself", again, surprisingly depressing despite the jolly rocking guitars. No.4 on the songlist is a peculiar one. 'Continental' uses a note hopping riff (instead of the usual octave) to good effect in a song supposedly about a heroin addict, lovely. Surely enough, the chords come back for the 1st verse with Skiba casting an equally morbid image by closing with "I've got your pictures on my walls, I've got a long list of calls I must make... to your existing family". It has a real driving force to it because of the show off behind the drum kit and all over chorus chords. "You had nine lives and one by one you chewed them up. Your final coffin nails been driven far too much" is sang in a controlled jazzy voice the first 2 times until the climactic 3rd (after a bassy solo and tap delay effects) where Skiba roars with emotion, almost screaming, you can imagine his eyes bulging out of his skull and spit hitting your eyeballs.
"What's upside down what's coated in silver? This crucifix is my four leaf clover"
I absolutely love this Alkaline Trio song, the strongest on the album and odds on favourite as personal best of all time, 'All On Black' is the song that got me into rock music for good, got me picking up the guitar and being the very first thing to learn. Ok, so I oversold that but its nostalgic value to me makes it a real winner. It starts pretty predictively with a congregation of harsh chords, then descends into a dark sequence of bass notes and shifting snare drum. "I put it all on black, no colour you're all dressed in and a stab in the back, left you bleeding on the floor" is as always a horror story regaled by Skiba in grotesque detail "And I'm mourning the death, the recent passing of your insides". Despite the tale of tragic love and other themes I couldn't possibly comprehend, you feel slight sympathy for him when he says "I'm living in lack of the blood sent from the heavens. I'm just trying to relax, as the killer's waiting right outside my door". Then bam, a strong note is hit with force and the bridge kicks in and head-banging ensues. "What's black and white what's, red all over? This tired book this, organ-donor" is the cryptic satire joke that acts as a momentum building moment and major turning point in the song - to the chorus. A concoction of a ritualistic checklist including a "sacrificial offering of virgin ears". Suddenly the guitars come in waves of high pitched scratches and there's a rushing feeling to it. After some "Sweet Blasphemy and "Salivating over you", the trio take part in some echoed harmonising at the death. "One of these days, it's gunna catch up to you, throwing looks like those around... And one of these nights, I promise to you, I'll soon be sleeping sound as soon as I leave town" are the last words of a gloating and spiteful Matt Skiba, cut off by an upbeat speeding melody, mimicking the getaway he sought after.
"You went out with a bang when you took.. with you all my dreams underground"
'Emma' is possibly the bands happiest sounding song they've written. Still using that 3 chord structure religiously, it's Andriano who takes the reigns once more, stating that "Emma appeared like an angel, Emma fell like rain. Into my lap like a heart attack, like lightning from her name" - puts Shakespeare to shame! Truly the party song if ever there was one, 'Emma' chugs away on all instruments and boasts a perplexing chorus with "a poinsettia in poison rain", "trading true love for insult & injury", a couple of medieval weaponry and vicodin of course! This has to be the easiest song to perform but a right mouthful trying to sing. 'Fatally Yours', the shortest track at 2:16 is a blur of up/downstrokes and a bouncy skiba reminiscing over a grisly relationship, "You told me that you missed me, but you meant with the grill and hood" indicating a hit and run style break up. Completely smitten, the threats of a manic girlfriend aren't enough to discourage Skiba as he doesn't mind packing his 'Sh*t' and leaving without a word or being put out of his misery altogether. Andriano' best track arrives in the form of 'Every Thug Needs A Lady' - which sounds just as poetic as its lyrics. "From here I can hardly see a thing, but I will follow anyone who brings me to you, for now, forever, for on and on and on". See? the guys can come up with in the odd romantic gesture, even if it is stained with the blood of an unwilling sacrifice. It's verses slowly trudge along, then pick up with frantic drumming and vicious guitar-playing that spans all over the fretboard. "You know it starts here, outside waiting in the cold, kiss me once in the snow, I swear it never gets old and I will promise you, I can make it warmer next year" stands out amongst many of the albums lyrics, be it because its as pure and loving as possible or because it is accompanied by cheery diddling acoustic guitar notes..
"Same place, same hello's, same goodbyes.. helps you get through beat up insides"
'Blue Carolina' starts with furious urgency, largely down to the ever technical drumming from Grant, but also because Skiba plays various clashing notes. A song to drive to, the tempo is as unrelenting as the vocals are eager (Andriano). It is by this time that the listen realises the generic sound of the album - it's bare bones, twisted, ironic and heartfelt rock and roll thats raw and real, but polished with crystal clear recordings and digital trickery. "Nervous and anxious, it really counts this time. You know all my favourite singers have stolen all of my best lines" is smoothly sang in a way that ressembles Elvis Costello.. or at least it does in my mind.. Full of 'Yeahs' and backing vocals, its another one to sing your heart out to. 'Donner Party (All Night)' continues the gory & grim theme of the album, "And all in all I guess it's for the better if you just can't feel a f*cking thing" delivered with impeccable happiness, "A place we'll call the final resting place.. in pieces" growing ever darker in its imagery. There are some lapses in the dread though, with short gasping breaths and hand claps. 'If We Never Go Inside' is the last song from Andriano (which by this time, sort of ressembles 'Blue Carolina' due to some slightly stagnant guitar work). The words, deceivingly bright with "your calendar is always pinned on summertime" only to turn into a little word of advice in "Hold your breath, walk don't run through the graveyard". Derek Grant's Hi-hat skills are worth noting even in my typical guitarist perfunctory way, though it must be said that he does a stellar job throughout his debut in the Trio, despite a lack of mentions. Skiba even shows off a tad with his scaling octaves, but with Andriano at the mic, only one man is gunna steal the show, pitch perfect as always.
"And all that followed fell, like Mercury to Hell"
Like the bands debut album 'Goddamnit', they say goodnight with a classy acoustic number from Matt in 'Blue in the Face'. The last song may from the default setting of a guitar, bass and drumkit, but it doesn't shirk any responsibilities to do with quality or the theme - which by now is vampiric.. "It's about time that I came clean with you, no longer fine.. I'm no longer running smooth" is contradictory as it is sang smoother than baby butt. Even with throat problems and a smokers cough, the vocals are perfect in an honest way. The old, rustic guitar playing is only matched by the final forlorn undead love scrawling of "I don't dream since I quit sleeping, and I haven't slept since I met you.. And you can't breathe without coughing at daytime, and neither can I.. so what do you say.. your coffin or mine?". And that's that, the official end anyway (the uk version has 2 bonus tracks of 'Dead End Road' & 'Old School Reasons' which also appear on b-side collection 'Remains'). 'Good Mourning' is a macabre series of songs sang with practically every emotion possible, with passion, slickness and class.