After much anticipation, BYO has released BYO Split Series Number 5, an Alkaline Trio / One Man Army split. This is already a good thing. After putting Bouncing Souls together with Anti-Flag (Number 4), and The Swinging Utters with Youth Brigade (Number 2), BYO manages to put together two more bands that work well, and sound flawless together.
Let us begin with the second half of this split. One Man Army puts together six strong performances. “T.V. Song” opens this side and one can hear the frustration even before any music kicks in. When you hear One Man Army’s anti-corporate radio track (perhaps inspired by Alkaline Trio’s “We’ve Had Enough” off of Good Mourning?), your first thought should be “okay . . . but the Ramones did it better,” which is probably why the song is called “The Radio Airwave Gave Me a Lobotomy.” “Let’s Call It an Evening” sounds like another Pop-Punk attempt to be mainstream enough to say “Screw you, I’m not mainstream, I’m just a bored Punk.” But One Man Army has the right to say it, since they’ve been placed on the opposite side of the most recent Punk band to try to turn mainstream. Listening to side A, one can see how One Man Army might be a little angry.
Alkaline Trio manages in six songs to put together all of their usual ingredients: an aversion to light, some blood and dismemberment, an (almost) apology, a (mostly) acoustic song, and a cover song. If your first Alkaline Trio album was Good Mourning, this is all good news. In fact, Alkaline Trio’s half of this split is almost an extension of their last album, call it the bonus tracks. However, if you remember as far back as Alkaline Trio’s second album, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, you’ll find yourself wanting to sing “Keep `Em Coming” from the moment you press Play. In fact, almost every song (save the cover) sounds like a cut from a previous album.
Skiba (vox/guitar) is still heartbroken, Andriano (bass/vox) is still hesitatingly optimistic. This time Andriano gets to do the acoustic song (“If You Had a Bad Time…”), although some guitar work is still plugged-in. At least the cover song, “Wait For the Blackout,” pays off, but that’s because it’s hard to screw up a song written by the Damned. New fans of Alkaline Trio will love this album. Old fans will still like it, but there is a “ho-hum” feeling to it. But BYO knows what it’s doing, since right now Alkaline Trio is a cash cow: the Punk band that’s turning mainstream in such a way that all of us fans can still convince ourselves that since we haven’t heard them on the radio (because we quit listening to the radio), Alkaline Trio isn’t mainstream. Yet.
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