In Rank Your Records, we talk to members of bands who have amassed substantial discographies over the years and ask them to rate their releases in order of personal preference.
Alkaline Trio’s appeal has always been the chemistry between guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano. In the band’s earliest days, their sound leaned more heavily on Skiba and his penchant for dark poetics, with Andriano providing textural backup. But the further along the band went, the more Andriano came into his own as a songwriter. As each ALK3 album passed, it became evident: There is a grown-ass man behind these pop punk songs. Now, Andriano has a solo album, Party Adjacent, under the moniker Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room that flexes his grown-ass-mannery. While fans of the Trio will find a soothing familiarity to it, they’ll also find something more personal, more introspective, and, dare we say it… more adult.
In advance of Party Adjacent’s release on Asian Man Records, we asked Andriano to take a stroll along the path that got him here. He ranked the last 18 years of Alkaline Trio albums—eight records, from Goddamnit to My Shame Is True. Here’s the order he came up with.
8. This Addiction (2010)
Starting from the bottom, This Addiction. Why?
It was such a weird record to make, everything we tried to do didn’t seem to happen with that record. We initially went into the studio with the intention of maybe putting out the record ourselves. We didn’t have a label, we were excited to just go meet in Chicago and work with Matt Allison who did our first few records and try to do something quick and refreshingly punk rock. We spent more time on that record than any other record we’ve ever made. I think I was in Chicago for like, two and a half months or something, definitely longer than we anticipated. The situation was rad, and everything pointed to making an awesome record. It just really just didn’t come out the way any of us wanted it to. And not because of Matt, I don’t know… we were all kinda doing our own thing at the time. Everyone was excited to be back in Chicago but—we all rented an apartment right near Wrigley Field, within biking distance to the studio, we had a three-bedroom apartment, and it was kick-ass. But like I said, everyone was kind of on different pages. I was going to The Ginger Man like every night and just drinking way too much, and Matt was going to a different bar at Wicker Park or something, and Derek was going through a lot of personal stuff at the time so he was going to different places. It was sort of like we would just meet up at the studio whenever, in the afternoon, when anyone decided to wake up, which is weird, because we were all living together. We would all meet up there and work for a while and go our separate ways. It was really strange.
We did a fair amount of writing in the studio for that one. I don’t hate the record, it’s just… especially after just playing it all these Past Live shows we just did, that one to me seemed like the least fun one to play. It starts to drag and there’s a few moments on there where I’m thinking, “What the hell were we thinking?” And I’m like, “Oh yeah, we weren’t, we were just extremely hungover… or high… or something…”
7. From Here To Infirmary (2001)
I like a lot of the songs on it, but I really don’t care for the production. I think we were trying to do something that we really didn’t know how to do at the time. It was our first record with Vagrant. It seems to be a lot of people’s favorite, I think maybe our biggest selling record, but, I don’t love it. I don’t like the way my voice sounds. A lot of the songs to me sound very similar.
It did seem like an album where you hit your stride as far as the macabre imagery that you guys use though…
We were definitely moving in that direction for sure in a much more obvious way.
Is it weird that it’s a fan favorite but you don’t necessarily care for it?
Well, again, it’s weird, it’s not like I don’t care for it, but it’s just not my favorite. Most of the songs I think are OK, but there’s not a lot on there that really stands out to me as, “This is a kick-ass song.” You know? I feel like we could’ve done a lot more with some of those songs. There’s not a lot of harmonies on the record at all. There’s not a lot of production, but we went to Minnesota to work in this cool studio. We had Jerry Finn mix it and it just kind of like, again, we were trying to do something we didn’t really know how to do just yet.
6. My Shame Is True (2013)
I really like My Shame Is True, but it’s been really hard to play. We’ve just been playing it and it’s sort of made it a sore spot. Matt doesn’t like to play it, it’s very personal for Matt. And it’s hard to play. It’s hard for me to sing a lot of the stuff on the record, just because there’s a lot of high stuff that Bill [Stevenson] was trying to make me do. So it’s pretty challenging. Again, it’s the thing where I like the songs, and I like what I had going on in the studio, but it was a tough record to make because the subject matter is really personal.
It was a break-up record for Matt, right? It must be weird rehashing that all the time.
Now when we play it, it just seems to make him upset. That makes it hard to really enjoy playing the songs. For example, we’re getting ready to go to England next week and this’ll be the first time in like, a year that we’re playing a regular set that’s not this Past Live shit we did where we’d play all the records. We’re gonna go and put together a normal set and I have a feeling there is gonna be zero My Shame Is True on there. [Laughs]
5. Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000)
Really quick record to write and record. Some of the songs that I wrote are a little too heart-on-my-sleeve-y, but it kind of represented a fun time for us. We were just stoked. We couldn’t really believe that we were making a second record. But I think we wanted to go back and do it the same way we did Goddamnit, when we should’ve spent a little more time on it. Maybe we should’ve thought about it a little more, but I think we were feeling pressure to make another record.
When the band formed and you guys did Goddamnit, did you even have plans after that debut record to go on and make a second one?
Not really. We were just like, shit, we made a record, and went on tour, and people were getting excited, so we were excited to make another one, but I mean, it was pretty crazy. I was living way up north in the city and doing all kinds of bad things to myself and just writing songs, maybe a little too quick.
But I mean there’s great stuff on there, obviously the song “Radio,” we were really proud of when we wrote it, it just kind of came together and that’s something that people really like to this day. Again, I don’t hate it. It’s more like vibe reasons and where I was at reasons for not loving it.
4. Goddamnit (1998)
We’re past the midpoint now on Goddammnit.
Everyone loves it, it’s super fun, but the production stuff—the fact that I did backing vocals before Matt even sang any of his parts because I was getting ready to go on a tour with my other band, Tuesday, it just sounds ridiculous to me. I don’t like the way my voice sounds, I don’t know what I was up to back then, trying to be all growly or something. Then there’s this weird acoustic ballad that breaks up the record right in the middle. I understand why a lot of people like it, and I’m super proud of the fact that the record is very unique. And I feel like if we ever try to do it again, you know… we couldn’t do that again. [Laughs]
It’s a young person’s record. It’s not the record you make when you’re an adult.
I don’t think any other band could ever make that record. I don’t think we could make that record again. It’s one of those “If I knew then what I know now…”
3. Crimson (2005)
I really like this record more and more, especially after playing it. I hadn’t listened to it in a long time, until getting ready to do all these shows, but I feel like this record was really good. It was our last record with Vagrant so there was some weird shit going on as far as us not re-signing to the label, so I’m not sure if that had any impact on how it was marketed. I’m not here to get into conspiracy theories, but I feel like that record should’ve done better. I think it took a lot of people off guard. There’s a lot of weird electronic stuff on there, there’s some sequencing, and Derek was really getting into production and stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that I think is really well written, lyrically, and really well done, musically. I’m really proud of that one.
2. Agony & Irony (2008)
I like this one for a lot of the same reasons. This is the first record we made after [producer] Jerry Finn died. So that was kind of a drag. Matt seemed to especially be—I mean, obviously, we were all super bummed, I was very bummed and still am. But just working with someone else seemed to have Matt in a bummed spot, but the songs that he wrote for that record are so good. I feel like that record is full of hits, and I mean that in the best way. A lot of times bands try to write hits and it can go either way, but there are a lot of songs on that record that I don’t think got their shot. “I Found A Way” is a super dancy, very catchy tune, I think. The first song, “Calling All Skeletons,” I think is pretty rad. I like a lot of the stuff. There’s a song that I did that was the last song on the record only on iTunes for some reason, that I like a lot it’s called “In My Stomach” and we had these Norwegian black metal dudes from this band Ulver. They did all the string arrangements for that song and another song on the record as well, “Lost and Rendered," they did a lot of cool stuff for.
How do you think fans received these songs?
Well, Agony and Irony is everyone’s least favorite, which I just don’t get. The production is the best we’ve ever had. The best sounding record we’ve ever had, I think. Everything sounds pretty natural on that record considering how much is going on. I really like that we stepped outside of our comfort zone as far as songwriting.
Some bands are content to make the same record over and over. Do you want to please the fans? Do you want to please yourselves? How do you think about approaching a record?
I have to always do something a little different, which is what keeps me going and I can’t really pay too much attention to what everyone is gonna say about it, because that just kills all the creativity. At that point, it’s not me making a record anymore, it’s me making a record based on what I think people want to hear, it’s not something that’s coming organically to the table. So, I try not to put too much stock in that really. It gets harder every day with everything being so public and having it so easy for people to let you know how they feel, which is not always the best way to start your day—reading a bunch of shit about yourself.
That was 2008 after MySpace and blogs and things like that started to really come full force. Did that instant feedback affect you guys?
I guess it was just weird to know that that many people cared that much, to go out into the world and just talk about it. I guess yeah, it sort has an effect; it probably has an effect on everyone, but not as much as you’d think. Again, I’ve always tried to not really care too much. But that record in particular, people didn’t seem to love it.
1. Good Mourning (2003)
Good Mourning seems to be more of a crowd pleaser.
Yeah, I don’t think I would’ve said this until we just did this last run of these anthology shows, and we would play that one on the last of the four nights. We would do Crimson and Good Mourning and it seemed like the last night was always the best night. Good Mourning is a weird record. It was really hard to make. Matt had all these crazy throat problems so it took a very long time. He had to ditch out of the studio and rest for a while so it was definitely laborious. Jerry Finn and Joe [McGrath] who was engineering, I could tell they were getting frustrated. When we left after the record was done, I was excited about it. A couple of radio stations were playing that song “We’ve Had Enough,” and we were all proud of the record. But I never really fully appreciated it like as a full album until very recently. Playing that record front to back is so fun.
I think there’s a lot of diversity as far as what the songs are about. It’s not all about love songs or all weird dark songs or all sappy sad emo boy songs. There’s a little bit of all that horseshit.