Alkaline Trio – ‘Blood Hair And Eyeballs’

By Katherine Allvey

Matt Skiba and Dan Adriano have a lot on their minds.

Alkaline Trio’s macabre punk vision of the world, one that’s informed a sound beloved by the melancholy for over two decades, is now dangerously close to reflecting reality.

“A lot of the stuff that was inspiring me on this record was this apocalypse culture that we live in,” says guitarist Skiba. “Without sounding trite, it’s the way that we get our information now through social media. There’s always been good and there’s always been horror, but it feels like the horror hits our doorsteps much quicker these days. It gives people the feeling that things are escalating horribly.”

Rather than positioning themselves as prophets who see the vile nature of the world lurking just beneath the surface, ‘Blood Hair And Eyeballs’ sees the band adjust themselves to become commentators on the events of the last five years. No longer acting as lurid soothsayers, they’ve exposed their humanity across eleven songs revealing that they’re just as fragile and preoccupied as the rest of us. Suddenly we’re all Alkaline Trio, and across the distance of contorted beats and flinching guitar they’re reaching out to take our hand. 

Lyrically they’ve matured past their gross-out era; there are no “dogs shitting razor blades” in Alkaline Trio’s new landscape. Even the most slasher-esque track, ‘Break’, for all its reference to paddling pools of blood, is more Lovecraft than Romero in its descriptions of death and decay. In some respects, that’s a shame: part of the pleasure of Alkaline Trio was the way they embraced the sensational. But, then again, when the real world is what horrifies you more than following instructions to slit throats or bathe in blood, you’re likely to thematically prioritise the darkness and alienation that comes from simply existing in 2024.

Despite the tamer themes, this is not a light record. ‘Teenage Heart’, a eulogy for lost optimism, is complex with sinister drops and shouts that flit through the distortion like disenchanted bats. Title track and first single ‘Blood Hair And Eyeballs’ is all insomnia and frustration infused with lightning sharp guitar and vicious desires. The way ‘Hot For Preacher’s rough edges and ferocious memories fade into the playful post punk echoes of ‘Meet Me’ is intoxicating.

However, it’s ’Versions of You’ that offers something distinctly different from the expected Alkaline Trio fare: a fractured internal reflection that’s almost uplifting in it’s key changes.  While there’s no explicit happiness in any song, there is a sense of opening up and letting regrets air like stained laundry. Drummer Derek Grant left Alkaline Trio shortly after the recording of ‘Blood Hair And Eyeballs’ (his spot has now been filled by Atom Willard of Against Me), and knowing that this album signalled a parting of ways makes you wonder how much of their musical sadness is based in real world conflict. “We let the best of us burn out,” they cry on ‘Hot For Preacher’, “We lost our way so long ago, chopping things down before they grow.”

‘Bad Time’ is the song which exemplifies this new direction. For all the discussion of gunfire and combat, it’s a song about being desperate for human contact, a plea for kindness amid discarded punk gang vocals. That’s what this album is all about: finding the humanity amid the fear that permeates the modern world. Alkaline Trio have always been blessed with the ability to see the world differently than the rest of us. For a long time that difference has manifested through tales of terror and violence, but now their lens has turned towards the grim reality of ourselves.

Rather than horrifying or constructing, they’re now reflecting and processing through their music. It’s a comforting record and a intelligent decision to change tactics, proving once again that you can never be alone if you have Alkaline Trio. 

KATE ALLVEY

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