In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
Depending on the perspective, I either have the world’s best or the world’s worst Alkaline Trio tattoo. Carved into my skin before I could legally do so, it was a teenage testament to my development from a punk-loving, all-black-wearing kid into a punk-loving, all-black-wearing adult. (Though perhaps that should be “adult.”) It’s only fitting that just about a year ago I added a small addendum to the band’s classic heart-skull logo that resides on my left bicep: a thought bubble that playfully states “Whoops!”
It’s important to note that I don’t regret this tattoo. In fact, I’m one of the band’s loudest defenders. While most fans that grew up with the Trio drop off either at or just after its sophomore album, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, I maintain the group’s output was of varying (but usually good) quality until its sixth album, 2008’s Agony & Irony. It’s all the more fitting that this was the first album the band released after I got their logo jabbed into my flesh. Since then the band has largely been hit or miss, sometimes coming close to self-parody but always offering a couple borderline classics on each new record. It was with all this in mind that I had a friend of mine drop the footnote onto my body; an acknowledgment not of regret, but of the constantly shifting nature of life and the role music plays in it.
Though it’s easy to construe the “whoops” as a jab at Alkaline Trio, if anything that punch is directed squarely at myself. I loved this band dearly, and even at 16 I knew that a tattoo was probably foolish, but I did it anyway. The addition of “whoops” acknowledges that the things that got me through my turbulent teenage years shouldn’t mean the same things they did back then, but, regardless, I’m happy those lessons are still being carried with me. Yet, for as much that has changed over the years, when I hear “Nose Over Tail,” the Goddamnit track that started my love affair with the band, I can’t help but get consumed in the rush of it all. Even if I’m a bit older, the track is still as visceral and moving as it was in 1998.
I’ve been asked why I didn’t just cover the tattoo up, but that would have felt disingenuous. Regardless of whether it’s there I’d likely remain “that dude with the Alkaline Trio tattoo,” a designation that’s been lobbed on me numerous times over the years, but one I happily accept. While I don’t know if the band members would find the “whoops” funny, I’d hope they’d know that it’s intended as a friendly punch in the arm as opposed to an attempt to get one over on them. And, if not, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and offer up the only response that’d feel right: “Whoops!”