Alkaline Trio Good Mourning (Vagrant, 2003)
While modern day pop punk has it’s roots in earthier and more grown-up themes that the origins of the genre, Illinois gothic punks Alkaline Trio were one of the first bands to make a breakthrough by injecting a little grit into their black-hearted sound. Matt Skiba’s band were always a little freakier and darker than other bands within the scene, with the lo-fi punk of Goddamnit! and the solemn nature of songs like Fuck You, Aurora and Radio on 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire being totally at odds with what was popular around them. The catchier sounds of the following year’s From Here to Infirmary and its breakout hits Stupid Kid and Private Eye may have caught the attention of the mainstream but it was on the bleak and gothic Good Mourning that the Trio would hit their creative zenith.
Good Mourning saw Alkaline Trio ramping up the influence of bands like Joy Division and The Cure into their sound to create something that couldn’t get any more black. We’ve Had Enough feels like a midnight ride on a ghost train, chugging along at breakneck pace with a variety of bells and spooky effects hitting you along the way. This Could Be Love may have been big on the radio but how many other bands from pop punk could get away with an opening line like “I’ve got a book of matches, I’ve got a can of kerosene” and gotten away with it? Matt Skiba’s emotionally charged and more alternative vocal style found a perfect home on the austere tones of Continental and one of the album’s true highlights, the brooding and moody All On Black. Dan Adriano’s songs here are welcome slabs of uplifting respite from the overall desolate feel of the album, even if One Hundred Stories has haunting church organs in the background. We can’t defend Every Thug Needs A Lady though. Sorry, Dan.
It’s impossible to ignore the influence of Good Mourning. That it came directly before My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge only furthers the argument that the Trio booted the door open for Gerard Way and co to walk through. It’s strength of songs and willingness to embrace 80’s goth, rough and tumble punk like Hot Water Music and a sound that was totally unique to them gel to create a record that remains one of the most creatively brilliant pop punk records of all time. In a career full of brilliant moments, Good Mourning remains the Alkaline Trio’s greatest achievement.