Recreating the most popular songs of your 15-year career for an acoustic album could be seen as a bit of a throw-away release, an album existing to fulfill a contract, but somehow, with Damnesia, Alkaline Trio makes it sound inspired.
Folk-ified like “Every Thug Needs a Lady,” slowed down with creepy undertones like “This Could Be Love,” or given an R.E.M.-style makeover as on “Nose Over Tail,” the old favorites breathe with new life. Even a newer song like “Calling All Skeletons” is revisited and revitalized.
A brilliantly fun cover of Violent Femmes’ “I Held Her in My Arms,” and a pair of brand-new songs make the album more than just a greatest hits redux. “I Remember a Rooftop,” with bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano on lead, is a little whinier than it should be, but could play better when electrified and sped up to the band’s usual pogo pace. The real gem in these unreleased tracks is “Olde English 800,” a love song that guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba sings to — what else? — Olde English 800. It’s short, it’s goofy, it’s fun — it’s the perfect pub sing-along.
Condensing the Chicago band’s irresistible career down to 12 songs (not including the three new tracks) could not have been an easy task, and there are — of course — omissions that had to be made that would have sounded brilliant acoustically (“Stupid Kid,” “Time to Waste,” “Fatally Yours”). Swallowing those songs left out aside, the collection plays beautifully, and closes out with an adorable little studio snippet of the band celebrating with some much earned bottles of booze.
Alkaline Trio: www.alkalinetrio.com