When Alkaline Trio released its third album, 2001's From Here To Infirmary, breakout stardom seemed inevitable. The trio's melodic punk had loads of pop hooks, but retained an edge and intelligence missing from other pop-punk bands like Blink-182. Although Alkaline Trio's fan base certainly expanded exponentially after Infirmary, the hype around the group has largely died down.
Even though it retains a devoted underground fan base, the group could still be tempted to commercialize its sound in the hopes of breaking out. Crimson shows no signs of that, but several of its songs could be hits. The opening track, "Time To Waste," follows the Trio archetype: big, loud guitar with nice start-stop dynamics; nice vocal harmonies with dark lyrics; quick tempo; and, most importantly, a big, hooky, sing-along chorus. Most of the songs follow this model, with flourishes in the chorus department: Seven of the 13 tracks have potent, visceral choruses. A couple of songs deviate from type, like the subdued, bass-driven "Burn" and "Prevent This Tragedy," with its Killers-esque keyboards.
Music aside, the band's goth-lite lyrical imagery and visuals feel rote. Subtlety takes a beating with a title like Crimson, though it's still better than funny-but-not-in-the-way-they-intended record titles like From Here To Infirmary and Good Mourning. "Sadie" is about Manson family member Susan Atkins, a.k.a. Sadie Mae Glutz, and other songs reference "things that go bump in the night" or declare "send us back to hell, we've had our fill of heaven." Alkaline Trio's shtick isn't as cartoonish as that of goth-punk outfit AFI, but it can be a bit silly.
No band that writes with such subversive pop sensibilities can be that dark, though. Crimson doesn't break new ground musically or stylistically, but Alkaline Trio has certainly honed its skills. Sure, Crimson follows a formula, but tracks like "Dethbed" and "Sadie" work so well that complaining seems pointless.