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Clearly the darkest album in Alkaline Trio's discography, 'Maybe I'll Catch Fire' has all the witty, drunken misery lyrics that vividly paint a black picture. Only this time most of the music is as equally upsetting instead of being a jolly masquerade, a theme AT eventually incorporate. Recorded and released during the turn of the millenium, through the ambitious record label Asian Man, MICF was originally a 10 track follow up to debut album 'Goddamnit', that spans at a swift 35 minutes. This version however is the 2003 re-release which contains 4 bonus tracks and is 'enhanced' with live concert video footage & a photo gallery. Its also the last full album to feature Glenn Porter on drumming duties as he pursues another musical direction. Giant bands like Greenday have declared that they were inspired by this band, as were many others from the Chicago area, due to their undying spirit and classic songs that go back to the mid 90's.
Straight away, fans of the previous album in 1998 will be overjoyed at a high flying, spirited welcome back in 'Keep 'Em Coming'. A 3 chord, fast paced, bass popping, punk slap in the face. The clarity of the recordings and mastering is evident from the first few seconds as the left speaker cuts out for 2 seconds during the intro, but in fairness it is the only strongly noticeable flaw. "I've got a song stuck in my head, one that I miss more than my bed. It's a song sung from a fallen milkman who's drinking bleach instead.. I'm much like him" despite the depressing suicidal feeling, its sand with as much enthusiasm as the simplistic guitar allows. "I won't go back to the way it was. I'm not huffin' gas and sniffin' paint, to take away this buzz that I call you" is the fabled Trio tradition of comparing love interests with drug addiction. Whilst the breakdowns slow and make it a duller, longer track, it still manages to be a memorable intro. 'Madam Me' kicks off with a choked octave and turns into another simple song, this time the vocal melody being as plain as ever. "The sunrise.. fills your eyes.. cannot hear your cries../No surprise.. a surplus of lies.. freed from the skies" sounds like a clear attempt at creating a sing along moment during live shows. A chorus line is strong and dark enough to make it worth the listen "lower than p*ss have you ever felt like this? Judging by your eyes like crystal balls, madam me's predicting that your answer will be yes". The trend of the song is pretty grotesque describing the heat of urine and a graphic "Knee-deep in sh*t there's no avoiding it, from your knees you're coated brown". 3minutes of back and fourth guitar, profanity and a promise of "I will keep you warm in Hell". Track 3 is a nice change of pace, starting with a drum count on the hi-hat and a hopping bass line. "Soon ends our stay here and its been fun.. So tonight I'll raise my glass to us. Cause we talked so much I think we filled this ashtray twice and I'm pretty sure we emptied every bottle in the place" sounds as personal and real as can be when Dan Andriano smooths out the vocals in 'You've Got So Far To Go'. Standard drum beat and a rising guitar, gladly take a backseat to the heartfelt lyrics "I wanna grab you by the arms and kiss you so hard. Lets do it right.. under a streetlight.. I want it now, somehow, I forgot how". As it stands its easily the ballad of the album and another reason as to why Andriano is a superior song writer.
No to be upstaged by his part time vocalist, Matt Skiba has a bash at writing a slow song in 'F*ck You Aurora'. Its one of the songs that sums him up well with delightful descriptions and tragic stories. "You have to be the cutest gravedigger I've ever seen". Some nice howls from andriano as well as his interrupting bass flicks too. "All these sorries and I miss you's are useless I f*cked this one up long ago" is more proof of Skibas heartbreaking tales. "F*ck you Aurora, you took my only friend.. You won't catch me behind the wheel of a Chrysler ever again" is the final line of the chorus, sounding as personal and visceral as can be. Sure its strewn with swearing but if you want an insight into Skibas origins and sound, its a decent track to check out. 'Sleepyhead' however takes time to appreciate. It features some harsh and choppy guitar and a raw, screaming Skiba. "You're scratching and itching, brought by the spiders beneath your skin" matches the theme of grit and determination. This is vocals at their limit, a youthful cry of "Hey there sleepy smile" always obliges. Despite the brief moments of fun, it takes time to get to a drawn out conclusion, singing "Nothing to see here but the rain.. its raining flames" then delivering the chorus once more with feeling. Once again though, Andriano blows you away with the album title 'Maybe I'll Catch Fire'. Whilst the introduction of a poorly tuned guitar and setting is nothing new on the album, the vocal melody and lyrics are just top notch. "Most exciting thing I do, hang half way out a 3rd floor window" is more suicidally punchy than ever before as is the chorus of "Maybe I'll fall hard, something tough to break me, something sharp to rip into my insides and bleed out all the pain. Sorry I don't even know your name..". No doubt the bassist has had some troubling life experiences if the words are anything to go by. However, despite is past plight, he manages to deliver a quality song where "I guess I only claim to be nice" closes a worthy title track. 'Tuck Me In' is typical of Skiba, a rushing riff of upstrokes and high gain feedback as he brings up horrible imagery of flames, maggots and tarantulas. At 2:44 its (by a second) the shortest track and nothing special really, more a way to vent frustration with a whole bunch of shouting. Although it must be said the Porters percussion has been fairly solid so far, keeping up the tempo and managing the slower songs effectively.
No.8 sounds similar to the previous track at first, with a familiar guitar line, only this time Dan sings. 'She took him to the Lake' doesn't offer anything new besides some backing by Skiba thats a nice touch - "God I feel alive!" and an ending that makes it seem a better song "..but then she went away and she's not coming back and I'm pretty sure that boy is staying in tonight".. unknown territory singing a story instead of real situations or feelings. For the 3rd time in a row '5-3-10-4' is a hash up, used rusher. By now it sounds like the Trio have ran out of ideas and while the lyrics are all original, they're all vaguely the same and become tiresome. Perhaps the tracks could have been better arranged but I personally struggle to really find appreciation for the few songs mentioned. Them comes 'Radio'. THE song that every Alkaline Trio fans knows every word off by heart, the ballad of the band to this day and somehow not a single and unheard of outside the underground music circles. A lullaby like introduction is played on a clean guitar, joined eventually by bass and drums of a head nodding nature. "Shaking like a dog sh*tting razorblades" is the surprising first line that has become an integral lyric to the songs renowned status, a powerful metaphor. The main riff alters through the verse and comes back around once more afterwards. Difficult to describe, its almost melancholy but strangely upbeat eventually. "Making the most of a bad time, I'm smoking the brains from my head.. leaving the coal calling the kettle black, and orange and red.. this kettle is seeing red" builds up the almighty chorus line of "I've got a big fat f*cking bone to pick, with you my darling" suddenly the song erupts into an energetic accusation and plot to a relationship "In case you haven't heard I'm sick.. and tired of trying. I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you, plugged in and ready to fall" dark, moving and more than a little bit harsh. The chorus changes drastically into heavy chords and louder drumming for an intense experience that at first catches you off guard considering the songs gentle approach. Repeating the first verse a second time, Skiba looses the soft spoken way and launches into a shouting contest. He almost breaks the mic screaming "Waking up next to nothing, after dreaming of you and me".
"..you're taking your time with apologies, I'm planning out my revenge. Red eyes on orange horizons, If Columbus was wrong I'd drive straight off the edge.. I'm seeing red!" is yet another example of some well thought out writing and furthermore, some pure human emotion in the vocals - no autotune or effects here, or on any of the album to recall. Another one to keep an eye out for should you see it because its an instant, underrated hit, that is the pinnacle of the album.
'This is Getting Over You' sees bassist Dan Andriano take up the reigns vocally in a rocking back and fourth march. "Today I woke up, more awake then I have felt in years" is sang gently once, then a second time only with more brutality and angst - something Andriano rarely does. The best part though is its interlude after running into a musical cul de sac saying goodbye, the bass picks up causing smiles all round as Dan declares that this really 'is' getting over you. Skiba can't resist adding some equally tortured vocals over the top. 'I lied my face off' changes the theme and sounds as bruised as the lyrics. "these cuts run deep, these scars are permanent and always on display - this makes things difficult for me" sang in a snarling manor from Andriano. It finishes up with "like watching new born babies crack from work related stress" one of the oddest lines ever spoken on an Alkaline Trio record. Still its a nice harmonised sing along no matter its meaning. The witheld note of 'Train' is a bit too much to handle though and the ending is far too drawn out waiting a good 20 seconds for a final chord.
'Snake oil tanker' is equally jumpy but set a such an incredible pace that the song doesn't get past the 90 second mark. Sounds as if they're either in a hurry or just sped up the song its that fast. A fun track and quite catchy despite it being only a B-side. The short and bouncy 'Goodbye Forever' is typically upbeat deliberately to despite its upset lyrics - "At least we're still friends, at least we're still alive" gets shouted out by Skiba, Andriano, Fans, You, All.
The whole CD shows its humble roots to be fair as the front cover is a friend photograph, the lyric book is jam packed with inaccuracies and cut off lyrics and the booklet itself is too small, with some nice black & white photos of each member. The CD doesn't have much to show though, 2 photographs, links to labels like Vagrant, Kung Fu Europe, Asian Man and AT, while the 2 videos (Official 'Goodbye Forever' & 'Radio' Live) low quality files but are lovely clips regardless with plenty of messing about. Old school altogether.