1998 Rating: 10/10
2020 Rating: 8.5/10
I’ve loved Alkaline Trio for a while now; at least 15 years by the looks of this stupid ass picture of me in grade 10 at the West Edmonton Mall. From the first time I heard “Armageddon” on Tony Hawk’s Underground, the band has never been too far from my ears. Today, I’m taking a relisten to the band’s 1998 debut full-length Goddamnit, a record that I know inside and out but also a record I’ve never listened to with my all-knowing music reviewer hat on. So, does Goddamnit hold up in the year of our dark lord 2020? Yeah…mostly.
There’s a fuck of a lot of terrific Alkaline Trio songs on the album. Right off the hop, you’ve got “Cringe,” “Cop,” “San Francisco,” AND “Nose Over Tail,” all of which have the bands signature melodic punk instrumentation and immature-yet-captivating lyrical style. Some of the highest of highlights on this album are the songs “Southern Rock” and “Trouble Breathing.” Both of these tunes pack in the morbid lyrical content that the band would later become known for and a less conventional punk song structure. Listening to this album with greater attention to detail is an exciting undertaking because it shows that, from very early on, Alkaline Trio had a solid idea of the statement they wanted to make as a band on follow-up releases.
Now, if I may quit kissing this album’s ass for a moment, some sore thumbs stick out a little further upon my hundredth relisten. As a bass player myself, I’ve fallen into the unfortunate habit of trying to play as many notes as possible while remaining within a defined chord structure. It sounded stupid when I did it and it sounds stupid when Dan Andriano does it. “Cop” is the worst offender, but there’s some major bass noodling throughout this whole album that just adds nothing to these tunes. This is something that Andriano has copped to (get it?) and, on future releases, he’s gotten much more tasteful while tickling the four fat strings. One last contention point is that the vocals are a bit rough, not particularly in the cool, melodic hardcore way. Alkaline Trio have become known for solid vocal harmonies over the years, but that quality doesn’t shine too bright on this debut. I know from the Goddamnit DVD that, due to a scheduling commitment, Andriano recorded all his vocals, leads and harmonies, before Matt Skiba had recorded his. I’m sure with a bit of extra time, these two could have polished their vocal performances, but I need something to nitpick.
In 2020, is Goddamnit still worth the listen? Absolutely. Does Goddamnit go down as Alkaline Trio’s finest half-hour? Nah. You can see early indication of ideas the band would come to fully realize on albums like From Here to Infirmary or Good Mourning, but this debut album shows some growing pains. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go serenade my dogs with “Enjoy Your Day.”
Written by Justin Bruce
*Edited by Dominic Abate