Welcome to Yesterday’s Jukebox! In our newest monthly column, I’ll be taking a retrospective gaze through a wide selection of disparate genres and artist discographies (particularly those with a sizeable back catalogue), with a keen eye for the deep cuts, hidden gems, and certified bangers. This month, we’re chronicling all the hits from Chicago punk rockers Alkaline Trio. – Owen Morawitz
“Nose Over Tail” – Goddamnit (1998)
On their debut full-length album, Alkaline Trio still sound like an act in formation. Guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano trade lead and backing vocals. On the upbeat “Nose Over Tail,” drummer Glenn Porter bashes things out against Skiba’s janky riffs and Andriano’s chunky bass thrum, with some excellent double-time transitions between the chorus and verse.
“She Took Him To The Lake” – Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000)
While it would be easy to go for fan favourites like “Sleepyhead” and “Fuck You Aurora” from the band’s sophomore album for Asian Man Records, “She Took Him To The Lake” edges these out as the supreme deep cut if for no other reason than Skiba’s tenor-range baritone fully coming into its own.
[Skiba’s ranking: #8; Andriano’s ranking: #5]
“Private Eye” – From Here to Infirmary (2001)
Arguably the definitive Alkaline Trio record of their early era, this twenty-year-old album has it all: a dark and gloomy cover with an undead, goth aesthetic, superb track sequencing, an album title that also functions as a clever literary pun; and wide-ranging lyrical themes that tackle alcoholism, loneliness, and forlorn affection.
From Here to Infirmary was the band’s Vagrant Record’s debut, and the only album to feature ex-Smoking Popes member Mike Felumlee on drums, who would be replaced shortly after by Rocket From The Crypt’s Atom Willard as a touring member (who also pop’s up in the video below).
[Skiba’s ranking: #5; Andriano’s ranking: #7]
“Every Thug Needs a Lady” – Good Mourning (2003)
With the band’s core truly solidified—Skiba, Andriano, and drummer Derek Grant—Good Mourning is where the band’s mainstream potential kicks into overdrive, moving from the realm of Warped Tour pop-punk to MTV airplay and sliding right into the Billboard Top 20.
Alongside break-out singles like “We’ve Had Enough” and All On Black,” “Every Thug Needs a Lady” is emblematic of that inherent cross-over appeal, whether wholly intentional or otherwise.
[Skiba’s ranking: #7; Andriano’s ranking: #1]
“Mercy Me” – Crimson (2005)
As one of the more straightforward, mid-tempo radio-rock cuts from the incredibly diverse, Jerry Finn-produced Crimson, “Mercy Me” is quintessential Alkaline Trio. It’s a concise, barely three-minute sad boy anthem with self-deprecating, heartfelt lyricism and excellent vocal interplay from Skiba and Andriano:
“Oh, mercy me, God bless catastrophe/ Well there’s no way in hell we’ll ever live to see through this so/ Drive yourself insane tonight, it’s not that far away and I just filled up your tank earlier today.”
[Skiba’s ranking: #2; Andriano’s ranking: #3]
“Do You Wanna Know?” – Agony & Irony (2008)
Their first record of the post-Myspace ever-present fandom era, Agony & Irony was unfairly maligned by the band’s more devoted fanbase. Their major-label debut followed in the wake of other acts like Rise Against and Against Me! by taking a big swing towards mainstream audiences, and “Do You Wanna Know?” makes a pretty compelling argument for the value in taking that risk.
[Skiba’s ranking: #6; Andriano’s ranking: #2]
“The American Scream” – This Addiction (2010)
After leaving Epic Records, Alkaline Trio returned to Chicago and their punk rock roots with This Addiction, their first record for Heart & Skull (the band’s own imprint on the legendary Epitaph Records). The second single from the album, “The American Scream,” finds Skiba & Co making the most of a “back to basics approach,” with neat power chords, nostalgic lyrics, and a catchy guitar-driven refrain.
[Skiba’s ranking: #4; Andriano’s ranking: #8]
“I Wanna Be A Warhol” – My Shame Is True (2013)
With glittering synths and actress Milla Jovovich as the voyeuristic muse for the track’s video, “I Wanna Be A Warhol” is one of the band’s most recognisable anthems—and for good reason. Coming off the break-up album that was the Bill Stevenson-produced My Shame Is True, the track sees Skiba projecting insecurity and devotion in equal measure, turning his pain and catharsis into art and legacy.
[Skiba’s ranking: #3; Andriano’s ranking: #6]
“Goodbye Fire Island” – Is This Thing Cursed? (2018)
The most notable thing about Is This Thing Cursed? is the five-year gap between it and the band’s previous record. Obviously, Skiba filling in for Blink-182 and officially joining the band in 2016 in the intervening time period has a lot to do with it.
Strangely, it’s also the band’s most topical record, eschewing the personal lyrical elements that defined their back catalogue to tackle subjects like the 2016 U.S. election and the Fyre Fest debacle, as detailed by Skiba on the deceptively venomous “Goodbye Fire Island.”
“Minds Like Minefields” – E.P. (2020)
With Blink busy dropping albums and quarantine Eps, Alkaline Trio had to tie fans over with a three-track eponymous EP in lieu of a new record. “Minds Like Minefields” feels like a throwback to the band’s Good Mourning-era, with big whoa-oh’s interwoven with vocal harmonies, piano keys, and a driving bridge section.
Stream all of the above tracks on the Yesterday’s Jukebox Spotify playlist here.
Alkaline Trio’s latest release, 2020’s three-track E.P., is out now through Epitaph Records. Purchase or stream the release here.