A United Front Of Punks In Babylon
Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba—maybe going solo to air out all his scary Sekrets (pun truly intended)—has done a sturdy and rousing work in Babylon, an album whose building-crumbling chaos and demonic activity are seen through power pop-colored glasses. Yes, Skiba’s girlfriend was turned into a pillar of ash, and darkness—it seems—continues to pervade and proliferate. But that doesn’t mean he can’t scream a feel-good chorus about it. And that’s Babylon’s lasting, quixotic charm: The Apocalypse has effectively been given a skateboard and a nose-ring. Sure, the park’s pond is an unsettling toxic green and the geese have three heads, but damned if that railing ain’t still good for a grind.
Songs like “Haven’t You?” and “Voices” are straight-ahead lessons in winning pop craft. The former purls along with charmingly schismatic verve, proving once and for all a “my chick is dead” ballad can beam with radio-ready polish. Though we find our singer’s better half has ceased to live—assuming, naturally, she was robbed and murdered by desperate marauders, died of starvation, or was vaporized by God’s wrath—the good news is in seeing her gracious specter, he’s now “able to waltz through violent nightmares of killing sprees and bomb scares to kiss [her] on the cheek.” Now come on! Doesn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart?
“Voices,” too, proves an exercise in ironies, sounding like a skate punk’s last gnarly “Christ Air”—or is that “Antichrist Air”?—down the ever-darkening pit of Hades. The cut’s happy-go-lucky power chords and “Do The Dew” synth line make damnation seem like a limitless skate park with no cops in sight. Is this Heaven or Hell, Skiba?! But later he makes it perfectly clear: Hell is his Heaven. “I escape to a place called Babylon,” he swells with pride, “never to return, I’m here to burn—eternally home sweet home!” Apparently past all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the halfpipe ain’t half bad there!
All the songs on Babylon seem to twinkle with an “it’s good to be bad,” Luciferian luster. And it’s exactly that finely honed sweet-and-sour affectation—a patented druidic snort of bubblegum hellfire—that’s sure to send a shiver down your board-shorted pant leg for this life and the life to come. Skiba, my friend, you’ve scored a perfect 666 on this one.