A stunning return packed with invention and a sense of purpose...
'Is This Thing Cursed?'

Though Alkaline Trio are certainly a band who need little introduction, the past decade has seen them release a triptych of records that tried to recapture the jaded angst of their early years, yet unfortunately fell short of the mark. This, coupled with frontman Matt Skiba replacing Tom Delonge in Blink 182 back in 2015, suggested the future of Alkaline Trio looked uncertain at best.

Fortunately, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’, the band’s ninth record and first in five years, manages to distil the spirit of seminal Trio albums ‘Good Mourning’ and ‘Crimson’, without ever getting bogged down by nostalgia. As such, ‘…Cursed?’ is not only a welcome return to form from the three-piece, but the best thing they’ve released in 15 years.

With an opening salvo of the eponymous title track and previously released ‘Blackbird’, setting the tone for what’s to follow, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ wastes no time in reassuring fans that the Trio are back to their self-deprecating best, and though said fans may not have realised it at the time, they have been missed.

Of course, while ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ is a record that not only acknowledges its roots but embraces them, it also feels like the perfect example of where Alkaline Trio are as a band in 2018. Where previous albums harboured an inherent darkness and self-destructive streak that stemmed from Skiba’s depression and alcoholism, ‘…Cursed?’ offsets its darker moments with an idiosyncratic optimism that speaks volumes about the more mature, sober iteration of Alkaline Trio in 2018.

That said, there’s little at play here that’s likely to win over anyone who’s already made up their mind as far as the band go. For those who’ve been clamouring not just for a new record however, but for an affirmation that the band are very much still here, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ is far better than one could have expected or even hoped for.

Instantly familiar while still feeling fresh; nostalgic while clearly the product of a band who’ve carved a niche rather than rest on their laurels, ‘Is This Thing Cursed?’ is the album long-term fans have been clamouring for since Skiba shaved his hair.

8/10

Words: Dave Beech

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