Every band has "hits," the songs they have to play in concert or no one will pay money to see them. Alkaline Trio is no different.
Thanks to nine studio albums, including My Shame is True (released today), singer/guitarist Matt Skiba, singer/bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Derek Grant have a plethora of tunes that are damn-near guaranteed to make any set list, which means there's a good chance you'll hear "Radio," "Nose Over Tail," "Clavicle," "'97," "This Could Be Love," "Mercy Me," "Crawl," "Cringe" and "Bleeder." While there's nothing wrong with these (in fact, they are some of the band's best material), there are also a bunch of songs that rarely — if ever — get played. But they should.
There's no way of knowing what we'll hear from My Shame is True, but "Kiss You to Death," "Young Lovers" and "Until Death Do Us Part" are bona fide awesome and are worthy of replacing the oft-played "She Took Him to the Lake" and "Private Eye." And, if we are lucky, the addition of new material might force the band to dig into its catalog to pull out a few oldies-but-goodies.
So, here, in no particular order, are six songs that should be added to the band's set list when they kick off their upcoming tour at The Observatory on April 25.
6. Fine Without You
If Youtube videos mean anything, then this three-minute-and-sixteen-second song taken from a split with One Man Army has been played live only once, which is a bummer because it's easily one of the band's best. In the video, Skiba describes the tune as being "about my addiction to opiates," but the lyrics seem to be about a tumultuous break up. On one hand, the narrator is depressed and has "nothing here but loneliness," which leads to putting "holes in walls" that cause "bleeding fists." On the other, we hear a narrator who is in love, who would "kill for you and eat the flesh/give you the heart and burn the rest."
Then, we discover this love hasn't gone away as the narrator says "a thousand miles ain't shit to walk if I'm walking to hold you." But the really great part about this song is the chorus, in which Skiba repeats the line "I'll be just fine without you" three times before adding, "I'll be here telling myself it's true." Go through a break up, drive around by yourself at night with this one on the iPod and tell me you don't sing along as the narrator struggles to move forward while his or her heart is planted firmly in the recent past.
5. Hell Yes
First off, there should be lots more musical tributes to Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. That reason aside, this song summarizes everything Alkaline Trio is about. The tune begins with Skiba's undistorted guitar, then gets loud when the bass and drums kick in. The verses are muted, the choruses explode and the melody is so catchy your mom might start humming along — until she realizes Skiba is singing, "Bless me dark father I have sinned/I've done it before and I'll do it again/Cuz it keeps me warm and makes you smile/Been beneath me all the while/hell yes." This song gets played live occasionally, but it's not an absolute — although it should be.
4. Keep 'Em Coming
Do you hate flying? Yeah? Well, Matt Skiba does too, which is why he comes out and says, "I hate flying I said/That's what I said." But the four-minute-and-ten-second opener to 2000's Maybe I'll Catch Fire isn't just about the claustrophobia that kicks in on airplanes. Nor is it merely about how getting drunk on flights is a good way to cure that claustrophobia. Nope. Similar to many of Skiba's songs, "Keep 'Em Coming" seems to be about a relationship gone sour, one that can't last due to the distance of the two star-crossed lovers. The narrator has been gone for a while, has "toothpicks in my eyes/A smile more yellow than the sky" and "a song stuck in my head/one that I miss more than my bed."
The realization that things won't work out for the narrator causes him or her to start "huffing gas and sniffing paint/to take away this buzz that I call you." This song was played briefly around the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, but should make an appearance in 2013.
3. Those Lungs
This song didn't even make it to the official release of 2010's This Addiction. Instead, "Those Lungs" is a bonus track, but probably should have been the single. Similar to Skiba, Andriano often sings of lonesome nights, but this song — while sad — appears to have a happy ending in the sense that the narrator is leaving his partner but will return. We know this because (s)he says, "Oh, sometimes we lose each other/but please don't lose your tongue/when I get home I'll keep you up for hours/I'm gonna need breath in those lungs." The "when I get home" part is pretty obvious that this relationship isn't over. Rather, the pair is strong, but one person needs to leave. Could it be Andriano singing to his wife? Cuz the lines "I'm kind of like a sailor/back in 1942/Yeah, I wanna fight the good fight but goddamn I'm gonna miss you" sure sounds like a musician about to leave for tour. Skiba's music makes you pony up to the bar and drink until your cry because that special someone is gone, but Andriano's tunes get you wasted because you are longing for someone who you have emotionally but are not with physically. "Those Lungs" addresses this issue perfectly, which is why we want to hear this shit live.
2. If You Had a Bad Time
Andriano plays this song as a solo acoustic act, but the full-band arrangement is a rarity. So fellas, let's hear it already. The intro is killer thanks to Grant's cymbal-heavy performance, but the tune gets even better when the music cuts out and leaves the singer and an acoustic guitar as the only instrumentation. At this point, we hear, "If you had a bad time/at one my parties/well, I wouldn't expect to be seeing you soon and that's fine." We don't know who the narrator is or who (s)he is talking to, but later we discover some gnarly shit is going because we find out that this person is in trouble. The subject is offered solid advice for letting loose when the narrator says, "If you're up to your ears/in blood, sweat and wasted tears/I'm hoping you're going to open your throat and just scream." And who hasn't wanted to open their throats and just scream?
1. Don't Say You Won't
The best part of this tune is Grant's harmony on the back-up vocal. That alone should be heard live.
Alkaline Trio performs with Bayside Thurs., April 25 at The Observatory. 8 p.m., $25. For full show details, click here.