Affairs of the heart

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A heartfelt lyrical honesty, expressing love lost and tragic crushes, has plagued the Alkaline Trio since its 1996 beginnings. But without overstepping the boundary of melodrama, a well-placed bite of emotional sentiment is rather welcome within the settings of the Alkaline Trio’s angst-filled pop-punk. And it nearly always manages to hit close to home.

According to Alkaline front man Matt Skiba, having someone relate to your lyrics of personal trauma is an indication that you have succeeded as a songwriter.

"I think that a good song is (something) that people can identify with," Skiba says, chatting from the confines of the band’s touring van as it pulls out of Denver.

"People have said in the past that our songs have helped them and that they can totally relate to them. That’s the biggest compliment you can get as a songwriter."

The Trio’s most recent album, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, follows its 1998 debut, Goddamnit, with a continued release of woeful tales that are more cathartic than pitiful. Along with bassist Dan Andrian and drummer Mike Felumlee (formerly of the Smoking Popes and the replacement for the departed Glenn Porter), the Alkaline Trio’s hometown Chicago environs have been a topical mainstay of its lyrical package. This includes drinking your heartache away ("San Francisco"), losing a close friend ("Goodbye Forever") and having an acquaintance convert to the side of law enforcement ("Cop").

"Our songs are personal," Skiba says. "They’re about real events that we’re in and I’d say that our personal life has a direct influence (on our music)."

And vice versa. Music, he says, is his own way of dealing with personal issues and angst. "It feels good to jump around and scream, (especially) after sitting in a van all day," says Skiba.

"I think that a lot of people who are in bands are playing music as an expression, to get things off of their chest."

With this emotional musical release also comes an unintended musical labeling of the Alkaline Trio – the term "emo" being the most frequently thrown around. Although Skiba confesses that the association between his band and "the ‘e’ word" is something that he doesn’t lose sleep over, he would rather not have his band placed into any specific genre.

"I don’t know what that word means anymore," Skiba sighs when considering the genre ID.

"I don’t know why we’ve been pushed into that category.

"Nobody really wants to be lumped into a category," he continues. "I just tell people that we play rock music and they can make up their own mind for it. It’s definitely hard for me to describe our band."

In the meantime, the Trio will be on the road in support of Maybe I’ll Catch Fire through the end of August. Until then, a compilation of all their singles and out-of-print material will soon be available on the fittingly titled Singles through Asian Man Records. And, like their previous efforts, it will also contain a batch of anthems that will relate to all those who have dealt with the affliction of a broken heart.

"Love songs are something that will always be written," Skiba says.

"I don’t think they’ll ever go out of style. Matters of the heart are definitely something that people think a lot about." Mike DaRonco writes about music for the Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

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