Progression is never a bad thing. Adhering too strongly to an old formula or style can be deadly for a band, which is why you always hear the hype for an artist's new record that they claim will be a step in the next great direction for them. People adore change if it is done right, but the fangs come out when it doesn't please them. In the case of Alkaline Trio's 2005 record, Crimson, the band faced a little bit of both. Fans of their earlier, gruffer work were appalled by their newer, more appealing style while newer fans were immediately hooked by their catchy choruses and cunning lyricism. Since their 2003 release, Good Mourning, the group had dropped their reds and blacks in favor of a duller gray, perhaps to portray the softer, more somber approach they chose to take for this album. No longer are they screaming with anger or holding you by the throat with their music, instead they intertwine their dark lyricism with a more depressive atmosphere to accentuate their trimmed energy. The music is softer, the lyrics are less furious, and it doesn't hit nearly as hard it used to, but fortunately for them they still know how to make a catchy tune.
Alkaline Trio has always somewhat relied on the hooking aspect of their music, but never has it been more apparent than on Crimson. The three singles, and arguably best tracks on the album, hold most of the addictive appeal throughout the record. The drums on "Mercy Me" and the pulsing chorus of "Time To Waste" are wonderful summaries of everything that the Trio has done wonderfully in the past, and the lyricism of "Prevent This Tragedy", teamed with the ever-dreary atmosphere really shine through as the outstanding successes of the album, but there is still a glaring absence of energy from the record during the small moments in between. "Your Neck" tries desperately to be what "Time To Waste" had already accomplished with its formula chorus-verse-chorus structure and Skiba's surprisingly boring vocal work followed immediately by "Smoke", which holds just the same hollow feeling. It's a harshly vivid display of what Alkaline Trio is without the pounding energy of their former releases; as well as a perfect transition into what their future work would become.
Upon first listen, Crimson holds everything that you could want from a pop-punk band. You have your catchy hooks and repetitive chord progression paired with decently clever lyricism sung by two fairly distraught men -- but how long can that last you? Alkaline Trio has been clinging tightly to this facet since their debut record, and since then have slowly shed everything that made their music so powerful. This record shows them choosing a slightly new path for their music to pursue, but never quite achieve the separation that's necessary to make it its own entity. Crimson's basic fundamentals make it an outstanding pop-punk record, but without that spark of life that has propelled other bands into success; it's just another unfortunately lacking outing from one of punk's former masters.