Just recently, UK heavy hitter Download Festival announced it was essentially writing this year off entirely, as have Glastonbury and Isle Of Wight, with Slam Dunk being fortunate enough to reschedule for later this year (Assuming things don’t continue to go tits up). It’s not JUST festivals though, as any large gathering is now prohibited in the interest of public safety, so bye-bye MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE reunion shows too! (We haven't long suffered flooding in Wales I don't particularly want to drown in a sea of emo tears thank you!) One of the tours, I would have not only given my left testicle to attend, but I would have sold my last roll of toilet paper too…and that would have been BAD RELIGION and ALKALINE TRIO. The trio are wholesome punks however, and themselves, personally not wanting everyone to miss out, went and dropped a surprise three-track EP simply entitled “E.P.” to make up for not being able to perform. As we’re all currently on lock-down, let’s take 10 minutes to appreciate this generous gift…
The EP opens up with “Minds Like Minefields” and we’re swiftly greeted with the up-tempo, alt. pop-punk that Alkaline Trio have made their own over the course of their career. It mixes a great, catchy off-kilter delivery with an intense, alternating instrumental flurry and some subdued yet distinct whoa-oh backing vocals. In typical Matt Skiba fashion it’s a darkly poetic love song about the aftermath of a damaging relationship leaving you mentally unstable to some degree, but delivered with so much bounce and energy it’s actually uplifting; a fantastic start this.
We follow this up with “Radio Violence” and we welcome Dan Andriano back to vocals which has always been part of Alkaline Trio’s appeal…the dual vocal styles not only gel well but it allows for completely different approaches to the bands writing and overall sound. The track retains the bands punk aesthetics when it gets going, including some sleek guitar work, but it has a lighter, more pop-oriented delivery, with its quirky chords and fun instrumentation; the band sound like they’re enjoying themselves here…if they’re trying to spread a little positivity it’s working.
Finally then we finish up on “Smokestack” and it’s like we’re taken right back to the “Damnesia” sessions…for the simple campfire acoustic approach is, surprisingly, yet another strength of Trio’s song-writing prowess, for not only can they write solid punk rock bangers and alternative goth punk anthems, they can also absolutely nail an acoustic folk ballad and they prove that here effortlessly. While not AS good as renditions of “Every Thug Needs A Lady” for example, it’s easily good enough to have been taken off that same compilation, and this mellow simplicity is just as stirring as their more perturbed punk rock, highlighting their talent for emotive story telling. The guys are quite obviously on top form here and quite frankly, just as with the recent VILLE VALO EP, the three songs only make you want to hear more, but if this is the level of material they’re putting out, whatever comes next will certainly be worth the wait. They dropped this EP because they felt bad about fans not getting to see them live because of this stupid virus…so I implore you now, the very next moment you get an opportunity to catch them live and thank them (Hopefully rescheduled shows with Bad Religion) you do it. I know I will.