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Through The Past, Darkly

The Alkaline Trio summons the ghosts of the Misfits and Smiths

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Punk rock's spawned a hodgepodge of mishmashed progeny over the past decade. Lately, a gothic strain has seized the moment, with black-clad, mascara-wearing acts such as My Chemical Romance and AFI popping up everywhere, mixing a maudlin, moribund edge with their emo-core thrash. Of course, this is hardly revolutionary. Punk's embrace of the dark side is almost implicit; the Misfits and the Damned, among others, have cashed plenty of checks thanks to their macabre songs.

Of more recent vintage is Chicago's Alkaline Trio, which formed in the mid-90s with a gloomy lyrical tone underpinning its chugging melodic punk. The band's had a slow, steady climb based on relentless touring, but more recently caught a bit of the neo-punk wave. The Trio's last album, 2003's Good Mourning, reached the Top 40. With the new Crimson, the band hopes to follow fellow indie-label chart-topper Taking Back Sunday into the platinum range.

When Creative Loafing caught up with singer and bassist Dan Adriano in Minneapolis for the start of a tour that brings the Trio to Tremont Music Hall Friday, he dismissed talk of pressure.

"It's obviously in all of our minds, but it's not something that we really try to concern ourselves with too much," Adriano said. "We just always want to make a record that we enjoy, and that is, honestly, the first and foremost item on the list. You really don't want to put unnecessary pressures on yourself from expectations, and start telling yourself, 'We have to make a good record.'"

The gothic predilection is one of the first things you notice about Alkaline Trio — that, and the band's hooky punk pulse. But like the Smiths, Alkaline Trio brings a sly sense of humor to its morbid imagery and lyrical subject matter.

"It's something that's tongue-in-cheek and has been a huge part of the Alkaline Trio's lyrics since 1997. It's always been about that, and the comparison to the Smiths is very flattering and apt," said Adriano.

"All these bands that are dressing in black now, wearing makeup and stuff — this is something we started doing because we thought it was fun," he continued. "We thought it was like being in Kiss or something . . . It's something that's funny to us, and never something we took that seriously."

While Good Mourning was a phenomenal success for the Trio, both Skiba and Adriano expressed their disappointment with the album in interviews, suggesting it wasn't as solid and cohesive as they would've liked. There's no such problems with Crimson. It boasts strong playing and a bunch of insistently catchy tracks, such as the anthemic, Misfits-like "The Poison" and the rumbling, ringing "Dethbed." The band gets help from producer Jerry Finn (Green Day, Sum 41), who gives the album a crisp, powerful punk-pop sound.

"We've worked with him in different capacities in the past. He mixed our previous two albums. So we had a good relationship with him and we consider him a friend first, and producer second," Adriano said.

Another big difference on the new album is the addition of drummer Derek Grant. The ex-Suicide Machines member brought in a new perspective and skills, such as helping to arrange the album's string and piano parts.

"He just made a huge difference. He's a really talented musician in almost all aspects," said Adriano. "He can play almost any instrument you put in front of him or figure it out in about five minutes. Having someone with that kind of versatile talent just makes things exciting. We're really content with the way we write, but we also want to keep it interesting for us. So Derek plays a big part in that."

While other bands concentrate on receipts and sales, Adriano said he doesn't care whether the Alkaline Trio is playing for 2000 people or 200, so long as the good feeling they have among each member remains.

"We just kind of figured it out that we're doing this, and if we're going to keep doing this, we need to just focus on us writing songs and not be concerned about outside anything," he said. "And now we're having more fun on the road and writing and everything like that, and from that (we're) generating better albums and better times on the road."

The Alkaline Trio's 8pm show Friday at Tremont Music Hall is for all ages. Tickets are $16 in advance; $19 at the door. This Holiday Life opens.

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