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Albums that Shaped Alt Dialogue #1: Crimson by Alkaline Trio

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“They don’t make punk rock like this anymore” might sound like a cliché but it’s true. While Alkaline Trio’s fifth album Crimson (2005) may not have had as much chart success as other albums in their catalogue, it’s their most complete. If you want a template for accessible, anthemic punk rock then Crimson is your best model. While the song writing duo of Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano excelled before and after this album, it’s here where they’re at their most sumptuous and instantaneous.

Of the recording of Crimson Andriano told Skratch Magazine, “We just spent a little more time in all areas of the recording process. We spent a little more time in pre-production, where we worked on the songs with Jerry [Finn, Producer]. Before we started recording, he came out to Chicago and [came to practices] and he was listening to the songs, and we had an opportunity to ask him what he thought. It kind of gave us more time to re-work some stuff that we thought could have been a little better but were a little stumped on, as Jerry had good ideas for the songs. And as far as the actual recording, it was great working with him. It was more like working with a friend. We’ve known Jerry for a long time, and he’s really easy to work with and be around for 12 hours a day. He’s got an amazing gear collection. Any kind of guitar you want to use for a song or any kind of amplifier, he probably has it—and he probably has one of the nicest one’s of that model. To me, recording was like being in a playground. It’s just like, “Let me play this one. Let me try this.” Every bass track on the record was recorded with an old Marshall guitar amp.”

The extra time and attention detail shines through on every track on Crimson. There’s not one that is even slightly below par, there’s so many anthems that all 13 stand out and have withstood the test of time. Popular opinion would be to say ‘Time To Waste’, ‘Mercy Me’ and ‘Sadie’ would be your go to points in the album, and while these are excellent tracks you’d be missing out on the brilliance of ‘Dethbed’ and ‘Smoke’. It’s not just us that loves Crimson, the album sold 42,624 copies, charting at number 25 on the Billboard 200, with BuzzFeed included the album at number 25 on their “36 Pop Punk Albums You Need To Hear Before You F——ing Die” list.

It’s an album to be listened to in its entirety, from the urgency of ‘Time to Waste’ through to the ballad-esque ‘Smoke’ which demonstrates the band’s (at the time) new found approach to using string parts and different effects. There’s so many moments of gold punk rock that you can’t help but fall in love even 12 years on.

Alkaline Trio also managed to embody the feel of alt rock in 2005. It was scene that revelling in emo, eyeliner and a dabbling in the occult. Alkaline Trio took that, dressed the part and bridged the gap between emo and pop punk. Even the cover art of Crimson became iconic and synonymous with the time. Featuring drummer Derek Grant and Matt Skiba’s then fiancée Monica, there’s a beauty/sinister feel. Of the artwork Skiba told that the band were “doing the photo shoot and we had a completely different idea of what the record was going to look like. And Monica was there doing our styling; she got a bunch of outfits and she did the styling for pretty much all the new pictures for the record. She was there and the photographer was just doing all these different things and he had her stand in. He was toying with these different ideas with just a small portion of her face in the picture and then, lo and behold, she’s our cover star. So we thought it looked cool and the people at the art department are in cahoots with the photographer who is amazing. Everybody who worked on the thing was cool and hands on and saw these pictures of her and were asking “who is that?” I said “that’s my girlfriend” and they said “that’s perfect, we have to use her.” I think it looks very cinematic, and that’s what we were going for. Once it was coming together, it was like film noir.”

Musically and visually it was the archetypical 2005 album but also one that was above its peers as it still stands strong today. Punk Rock was never the same for Alt Dialogue after Crimson.

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  1. Albums that Shaped Alt Dialogue – the preamble – Alt Dialogue

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