Few things in life are certain beyond death, taxes and Alkaline Trio singer/guitarist Matt Skiba's fixation with the macabre. He's been mixing skeletons, hell fire and blasphemy into his pop-punk for years and on My Shame is True, Alkaline Trio's ninth album, he doesn't disappoint with titles like "Kiss You to Death," "Torture Doctor" and "Until Death Do Us Part."
Alkaline Trio has made a career out of melodic, mid-tempo punk songs about heartache and feeling down, and what they do, they do well. Still, maybe it's age or maybe it's the safety of sticking to the formula, but My Shame is True never really delivers that punch to the gut that longtime Trio fans look forward to every two years.
Skiba's songs on this album all amount to an apology note to his ex-girlfriend, whose picture adorns the front of the album. The breakup must not have been THAT bad, and you never really feel the sadness he seems so desperately trying to get across. It's not that his songs aren't good anymore, it's just that they don't seem to be getting any better. He's always been a master of killer hooks and melodies, but without the desperation his songs are starting to feel formulaic.
Another mark against this album is that it only gives four of the twelve tracks to bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano, whose songs seem to improve with every year that passes. Skiba has always been the "first among equals" in the band's songwriting department, but one can't help but wonder how things would sound if Andriano were given a greater share of the songwriting. The profound "Only Love" and the gorgeous "Young Lovers" showcase Andriano's masterful ability to craft pop songs that are as lyrically dense as they are musically addictive.
Ultimately, with My Shame is True, Alkaline Trio delivers another dark, melodic pop-punk record about loss and longing. While it may not be among the best they've ever done, they still play pop-punk better than just about any other band today.