Over the years, Alkaline Trio have produced several albums, most of which were well received but remained relatively unknown. Despite the albums being difficult to find, fans went one further to find old songs, B-sides, Live songs and covers, to such an extent that when the band performed the songs live, everyone already knew the words. Finally, all those classic songs have earned the right to a physical release in 'Remains'. Arriving in a double disc flip recyclable case, with glued in lyric book, you not only get 22 tracks to enjoy (16 originals, 3 covers & 3 live recordings) but also a DVD with a 25 minute documentary of the band on tour during this CD's release with behind the scenes antics and live performances fused together, official music videos, band rehearsals and interviews. The band has so many songs that were considered but criminally scrapped for albums. That's not to say that the albums song-lists are lacking but to include any of these could only enhance the listening experience as there's barely a weak track, just short ones. So AT fans rejoice as most of the rarities are available on one fantastic disc, accompanied by a short & sweet DVD and a little lyric booklet with the bands very own interpretations of the songs. The songs contain various references to drug use, self harm, suicide, violent acts and feature explicit imagery and the odd swear word.
In typical Trio fashion, the first song is the most well known B-side 'Hell Yes'. "I gave up on you a long time ago, how can you blame me?" is sang against the standard palm muting and simplistic drum beats in an never-mind manner, until the songs break down when singer and guitarist Matt Skiba declares "You've been whispering sweet nothings" repeating it slowly in a delicate voice only to shout it at the top of his lungs a final time. Next is 'Dead End Road' a song I was familiar with as it appeared on the UK edition of 'Good Mourning'. Starts with harsh guitar chords and even harsher words "I thought that you were sleeping when I found you there in bed. When I touched you, you were freezing, it turned out that you were dead!". Its a back and fourth, subtle sing along. 'My Standard Break From Life' is a stuttering country western like song that's seems unlike any other Trio song. Bassist and vocalist Dan Andriano takes the helm for singing this time with an apathetic approach in his vocals and a jamming little interlude after each verse. "You says its fixable, a classic case, lack-of-will. I say I don't wanna try I'd rather sit here all night" is the lazy excuse offered at the end. The first cover of the album is Berlin's 'Metro' sang by Skiba and completely nailed on bass by Andriano. Its tough to imagine it as an influential song for the band, with its dizzying bass riff and mimicking guitar, but the lyrics, vocals and song structure are somewhat familiar. I'd never heard the original song, but I don't dislike the cover and its an insight to the bands backgrounds. One of my favourites is 'Jaked On Green Beers' - a top notch party piece that's sets a blistering pace. Thanks to the lyric book, it is learnt that this track was drummer Derek Grant's very first recording with the band, which shows. He goes all out mental, using everything at his disposal and using every technique he possibly could. Despite the complexity of the percussion, the guitar, bass and singing is all very simple, (blink 182's set up comes to mind). Singing about selling things for dope and strains on a friendship/love interest, both vocalist end the song with desperate pleas of "I hope this is goodbye", harmonising with each other in peppy upbeat fashion, regardless of the songs past mentions. Definitely were a listen if you're undecided or interested.
'Queen Of Pain' is another quality song which was unknown to me at the time of purchase but quickly grew in stature as one of my favourites. After banging on about vampire bats in New York city, deprived of blood and putting out fires, Skiba eventually goes darker with "You've got a funny way of showing off your bathroom surgery" and then shouting "I've never seen arms like yours", no doubt about self harm and suicide it makes for grim imagery. Although the first half of the song is downbeat and shackled, it soon picks up a happy attitude in the chorus "The stars at night are big and bright, deep in your eyes Ms.Vincent. You told me once I made you smile, we both know damn well I didn't. I'm not much of a jester but I'd test poison food for you, your majesty you're royal blue, I'm loyal to my king of pain". It all sounds as confusingly negative as ever, but the whole tune couldn't be happier. After all the Van Gogh paintings and wrist slitting is 'While You're Waiting', a song that somehow manages to sound exactly like the band you know and love, but also like nothing you've ever heard before. "Be thankful for your fingers" and "I'm not crying wolf you whisper, I'm really dead this time" show Skiba's progressing lyrics and metaphors until it again goes to a dark place in "They locked you up, they threw away the key. Sutchered your mouth shut, murdered your family", all that evil imagery somehow brightened up with snappy hand claps in between each line. It is the epitome of an Alkaline song. 'Rooftops' is the second cover, this time by fellow live show comrades Hot Water Music. At only 2 minutes long its more of a salute to their companions rather than a serious attempt to cover. Smoking weed and a plain solo make it a breezy track.
Another memory jogged is 'Old School Reasons', one of the few tracks were both vocalists sing together with Skiba dishing out a sharp verse or 2 and a strained Andriano providing the chorus'. "All my money's been spent on a DIY lobotomy/A facelift via alcohol", sounds like life lessons being admitted here. Things get unexpectedly political in tenth track 'Warbrain'. Written for the compilation CD 'Rock Against Bush' it seems to bear no real democratic message or mention of government besides the introduction, spoken word on a telephone. Its also a different set up, focusing on 2 guitars instead of one but everything else remains as stable as ever. Its full of impressive long notes and a happy go lucky riff, still only managing 2 minutes. 'Fine Without You' is in the same vain of form as 'While You're Waiting'. Similar sounds and settings (and hand claps) but a different message, "I'd kill for you and eat the flesh, give you the heart and burn the rest. A thousand miles ain't sh*t to walk if I'm walking to hold you", Matt Skiba at his most romantically gruesome, poetic best there. Its these types of songs that Skiba's voice is at its best, slightly stretched and brimming with emotion, raw and powerful stuff. Admittedly, 'Hating Every Minute' took its time to grow on me, as its title serves as an example for the song. The guitars and melody are all grizzly and grumpy, even the words are unhappy with "This is the way we disappear, its easy like a 50ft fall". Unlike the recurring theme of depressing thoughts with a smiley exterior, this one is all upset until the very last chord. 'Dead and Broken' resets that idea though as its the recipe the band are used to, violent situations and a grin. "Your lovers blood ran cold, cutting off the hands we used to hold", a note that gets held for a while that its almost comical.
No. 14 really delves into the back catalogue as 'Sadie' proves to be an old one, later restored for the album 'Crimson'. It seems that this was a song that got put on hold until they could afford an orchestra. A strong ballad, more like a demo version of the released song, 'Sadie' is about the deeds of the Manson family, with a reading from her testimony included in the later part of the song "He represented a God to me that was so beautiful that I'd do anything for him. I'd do anything for God, even murder if I believed it was right. How could it nor be right if it is done with love? I have no remorse for doing what was right to me. I have no guilt in me.". Where they were going with this is questionable and a bit controversial, but no matter the actions, that is a powerful message. 'If You Had A Bad Time' is a rather lovely Andriano song. Unusual that its a positive message with a relieving sound too.. "If you had a bad time at one of my parties, well I wouldn't expect to be seeing you soon and that's fine" sounds rather personal, not in the same mentality as all the other songs, and sees Andriano really shine with a such an uplifting chorus with surging electric and acoustic guitars and a chorus line of "Just some words of advice, maybe you've heard them before bu here goes. Just be true to yourself, if it lands you in hell well at least now you know" and ending as "with one million things holding you down, why you're one of those things I don't know.. No big deal gotta go". So that's another brilliant ballad, one from each singer, sweet. The third and final cover is 'Wait For The Blackout' by Londoners, The Damned. Skiba shows a bit of his technical abilities for once, whilst Andriano's bass playing stuns all as usual.
Towards the end are the tracks there were somehow left off the album 'Crimson'. 'We Can Never Break Up' sees the return of a second guitar but is so slick and sang like a lullaby by Andriano. Sure it would be out of place on that particular album, perhaps why it was left out, but its just so addictive with countless "We can never"s and a pure chorus of two words "My Love" which closes out the song with the intro riff behind it. The 2nd of the 'Crimson' rejects is 'Don't Say You Won't' another brilliant track that's reminiscent of 'The Cure's work. Derek Grant really shocks you with rumbling drumming genius, speeding through the song only about 2 minutes long. He even sings a tad to say the title. Its got a funky synth riff now and again and lightning fast upstrokes on guitars, one of my all time favourite Trio songs - and its a B-side. The album comes to an end with 'Buried'. Wow, just incredible. The progression of the band is evident in this one - an echoing, beautiful love song like riding off into the sunset, only more strolling through a graveyard. Fiddly guitar intros, church hall drums and flowing chorus riff make this a delightful conclusion to the collection, one that strangely, you can dance too.. more of a waltz. "I know you never lie but it's no fun to tell the truth, I guess I never loved but I will see what I can do. Got so much life to waste that I would take my days and hand them to you."
As if all that wasn't enough, you've got 3 live songs, 'Dethbed', 'I'm Dying Tomorrow' and an acoustic version of 'My Standard Break From Life' bunged on to the end. Not just this but the lyric booklet with comments from all the band on each song, making an interesting read, as well as the extras on the DVD, a high pitched hilarious 'Emma', 'I Was A Prayer' radio recording, 'Stupid Kid', 'We've Had Enough', 'Time To Waste', 'Mercy Me' & 'Burn' music videos. A necessity for Alkaline Trio fans.