With This Addiction, the seventh full-length by Chicago pop-punk stalwart Alkaline Trio, frontman Matt Skiba and crew have decided to inflict that hoariest of clichés—the “return to roots” album—upon the world. It’s a damn good thing they nailed it. Many bands use such a move as a desperate ploy to reestablish themselves after falling prey to the excesses of success, but This Addiction feels less like backpedaling and more like homecoming. Drawing on a rich tradition of Chicago pop-punk stretching back to Pegboy and Screeching Weasel, This Addiction is a chiseled, go-for-broke disc with a modicum of overdubs, melodic flourishes, and even harmonies. In their place are slab-like anthems such as the title track and “Dead On The Floor,” songs full of Skiba’s trademark weary wit and solid, steady hooks. In some cases, a little flesh got trimmed with the fat; louder backup vocals and an extra wash of guitar might have actually been a good thing, especially to those who’d grown fond of the stadium-aimed sound of recent releases like 2008’s Agony & Irony. But at least with This Addiction, Alkaline Trio’s few errors fall squarely on the side of good intentions and taste. What’s left is a vital, rousing, occasionally heartbreaking monument to punk-rock gumption that gives looking backward a good name.
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