By RYAN RITCHIE
Alkaline Trio needs your help. Since Oct. 4, the threesome (singer/bassist Dan Andriano, drummer Derek Grant and singer/guitarist Matt Skiba) has been asking fans what songs they should play on their upcoming tour (which begins Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Warfield). While it's a nice sentiment to ask ticket-buyers what they want to hear, the band could have saved a lot of time and energy by asking me -- since, let's face it, I know everything.
Okay, maybe I don't know everything, but I do know Alkaline Trio. The first time I saw the group was in 1999 at a warehouse near the Port of Los Angeles. My band opened, and since then my musical endeavors have produced jack shit, while Alkaline Trio has released eight full-length records, two compilation discs, and an acoustic album of the group's best-known material. Them's alotta songs to choose from, especially for fans who haven't spent half their lives singing along to "Nose Over Tail." That's where I come in.
Here are two songs from every Alkaline Trio release (not counting EPs) that should be played on this upcoming tour, as dictated by a guy who's spent way too much time listening to the band.
Whereas many of Skiba's songs make us cry for sad reasons, "Clavicle" produces tears of joy, the kind that give us hope, that just maybe we'll share a last name with the girl/guy we've been staring at from across the room for six months. And if that wasn't enough, original drummer Glenn Porter absolutely destroys this tune with a killer swinging groove.
2. "San Francisco"
Maybe I'll Catch Fire
1. "She Took Him to the Lake"
The opening line in this Andriano-penned tune is, "Do you remember the story of a boy and his first date?" Well, this boy can't remember his first date, but I can relate when the bassist explains how "she spent one summer waking up between his arms" only for the girl to go away, leading the boy to discover that "his calls were not returned." This, after she "told him he was the one." I don't know this girl, but goddamn it, I totally know this girl.
Too obvious? Yeah. Still, "Radio" is the greatest fucking rock song this side of Nirvana and the best non-hip-hop dis track since Dylan sang, "You got a lot of nerve/To say you are my friend." Seriously: "I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you/Plugged in and ready to fall?" That's amazing. As a writer, I spend an obscene amount of time with words and I have no qualms admitting I'll never create anything as good as that.
From Here to Infirmary
1. "Mr. Chainsaw"
Sometimes I'm a really productive member of society. I leave my house. I smile at strangers. I kneel to pet dogs. I go to the gym. Then, the next day, I don't get out of bed. I wear pajamas. I don't shower. I nap at noon. I drink too much. These contradictory days remind me of when Skiba sings, "There's nights that I can't even walk/There's days I couldn't give a fuck/And in between is where I'm stuck." Often my see-saw battle with depression has something to do with the lyric, "Found out recently that you are leaving/For good I hope I softly tell my ceiling." Hearing this song live might make me feel like I'm not the only one.
2. "Bloodied Up"
You have every right to be this appalled with Alkaline Trio if they don't play "Bloodied Up," because if it was up to me, I'd never have to miss this song.
1. "One Hundred Stories"
The ending of this song rules. Andriano sings, "I was getting bored with hurting myself" while Skiba sings, "So dream a good one tonight." The contrast in their voices and the lines is like when peanut butter met jelly.
2. "Blue Carolina"
Have you ever had to leave someone you didn't want to leave? And have you ever thought about every single fucking second until you can see that person again? If so, perhaps you can relate to the first verse, in which Andriano sings, "It's everything that I can do right now/To not think about you moving further off with every passing second/And every night of this lonely summertime/I feel you missing from my heart, a part was missing from my soul."
"Smoke" is a bit mellower compared to other Alkaline Trio songs, which is why they should play it. I mean, they can't all be barn-burners, right?
2. "I Was a Prayer"
The clean guitar, the melodic lead intro, the muted verses, the layered guitar choruses... is this Alkaline Trio? Yes! Yes, it is! For reals, this song sounds like someone else wrote and recorded it, which is meant as a compliment to the band's versatility. And in case you were wondering, the last four songs have been Andriano's, because homeboy has been writing better and better songs the longer the band has existed.
Agony & Irony
1. "Help Me"
Does this song make you want to kill yourself? Well it should, because it's inspired by the 2007 biopic Control, based on the life of late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Even if you didn't know that tidbit, Skiba would still make us feel like we should hide the knives when he sings, "Help me, help me, won't you?/Sing me, sing me one last song/Help me, help me, somebody help me/Save me from myself/Take me from this hell." I wish I could say I don't relate to those lines.
2. "Love Love, Kiss Kiss"
If this isn't the best Alkaline Trio song ever, I don't know what is. That's reason enough for this song to be played, but with fall here, Andriano's line "It's hard enough trying to drink another winter all alone" is about to ring all too true. And the rest of that chorus? Puh-lease. If you haven't lived, "Love, love, kiss, kiss/Blah, blah, blah/You're making me sick/I wish you'd just stop/Showing off for the rest of us/That no one wants to love," well, then, you're a better, happier person than I.
1. "Dead on the Floor"
This will fill the void if they don't play "San Francisco" because the intros are similar. And, like "San Francisco," there's a plane/flying reference. So, let's call this "San Francisco Part 2," which means they have to play it.
2. "Off the Map"
The intro's got this cool harmonic thing going on, and the hair on my arm stands up when Andriano sings, "And I can row, row, row/My boat back to shore someday/So are you coming with me?/Anchors aweigh." And there's nothing like having your arm-hair standing up when pressed against a sweaty 19-year-old dude.
My Shame Is True
1. "Kiss You To Death"
There are two times during this song when Skiba is at his lyrical best. First he sings, "And I don't care if we fuck or we talk or we cry/I just miss you/I wanna kiss you to death tonight," which indicates heavy shit because fucking, talking and crying should never be spoken of as equals. Later, Skiba tells us, "I miss taking out the trash/I miss your face/I miss your cat/I miss your smile." Missing someone's cat is a hyper-specific way of expressing your blues. And you don't take out the trash for someone you're just fucking. No, you take out the trash for someone you love, someone who means more to you than a fling, because God knows no one misses taking out the trash. What Skiba really misses is being a true companion to a special someone and, damn it, that's a shitty feeling.
2. "Young Lovers"
I'm almost 34 years old, so all I can do is remember the sort of young love Andriano sings about of this track. Stuff like, "Young lover/Let's waste no time/You're too concerned with heaven/And I see it in your eyes/Young lover/Right now you're mine/Don't think of your tomorrows/Let's live like we could die/Tonight" sounds vaguely familiar, like maybe I used to take girls to parks and make out with them until the sun came up, flipping the proverbial bird to whatever shit job I had to be at in the morning. For the duration of three-and-a-half minute -song, I'm that kid again, and it feels pretty great.
1. "Goodbye Forever"
In the second verse, Skiba sings, "Remember last April when/We saw U.S. Maple?/Somehow the singer showed the Fireside exactly how I feel." Well, Skiba (and Andriano) have plenty of songs that show us how we feel, and "Goodbye Forever" is one of them. When he yells, "At least we're still friends/At least we're still alive," suddenly life isn't so bad. Sure, we're all a bunch of miserable lonely drunks who'll never amount to anything, but we're alive and that's gotta count for something.
This is one of those rare songs that hits you just as hard when you are happy as when you are sad. For example, the lyric, "One thing that I never said/I'm truly happy in my heart and in my head" makes me think Skiba is being literal, as in he's happy this girl's gone. However, the next line, "A lonely liver suspended in liquid" says he's fooling us and -- more importantly -- himself. He's not happy in his heart or his head. He's drunk, missing his girl. Yeah, he's getting over her, but he ain't there yet. Thankfully, there's booze for that.
1. "Jaked on Green Beers"
When I lived in Long Beach, Alkaline Trio played down the street from my house at my favorite bar, but I couldn't go because my then-girlfriend had a roller derby bout and I had to be there even though she was injured and wasn't playing. When we broke up shortly thereafter and I saw on YouTube that they played this rarely-performed tune at the show, all I could think of was, "The only thing that you ever really did for me/Was make me oh so miserable/And the hope that I never see your face again/Is anything but questionable/I hope this is goodbye."
2. "Fine Without You"
Two things: 1. They almost NEVER play this song, which is unbelievable because it makes me want to cry. On second thought, I don't want to cry in public, so maybe skipping this tune is okay. 2. My reasoning for "Jaked on Green Beers" makes me sound like an insensitive jerk who had no feelings for a girl he spent 11 years with, but keep this in mind -- "Fine Without You" is the song that got me through those first few weeks post-break-up. After I moved out, I played the shit out of this one, always screaming along to "I'll be just fine without you/I'll be here telling myself it's true" because I needed confirmation that I'd be okay. Now that I am okay, that line -- and this song -- takes on a new meaning. I am fine without her and maybe this track helped with that.