The chugga-chugga remains, but Chicago’s Alkaline Trio has developed too much emotional depth and melodic complexity to claim pure punk. These days, they’re too damn Elvis Costello. And, like Costello, Alkaline Trio has punk leanings, but this doesn’t make the band any less articulate or perceptive.
The Trio’s 2003 masterwork Good Mourning was triumphantly catchy in spite of its searing lyrical agony. The band’s work on this new half-hour split doesn’t sting nearly as much, and will be less enduring for it. But the Trio is still as infectious and provocative as Generation X in therapy, particularly on the cryptic dis “Sadie” and the swaying downer “If You Had a Bad Time.” For a wrap-up, they wipe off their specs long enough to hand in a crisp, anthemic rendition of the Damned’s “Wait for the Blackout.”
One Man Army doesn’t cover the same waterfront, and doesn’t try to. The band’s lyrics are snottier, they bow down harder to Strummer, and their songs stick in your noodle more for their wacky, angry verses than their half-cooked choruses. OMA suffers by comparison, but the arc of Alkaline Trio’s career illustrates how much the group might yet accomplish.