Recapturing the spirit of earlier recordings, Chicago punk stalwarts Alkaline Trio polish those rough edges of youthful messiness and hit an effortless stride with ninth album Is This Thing Cursed? At its boisterous best, Cursed soars with the trademark harmonies of Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano, popping with an energy that recalls past peaks like 2000's Maybe I'll Catch Fire and 2001's From Here to Infirmary. Like contemporaries AFI and Rise Against, age and experience have smoothed out the band's delivery (Skiba's stint with blink-182 could also be a contributing factor), resulting in less danger and gloom. However, Cursed is ultimately an enjoyable ride, packed with rousing anthems such as "Blackbird," "Demon and Division," "Pale Blue Ribbon," and "Little Help?" The rollicking "Worn So Thin" and "Throw Me to the Lions" amplify the urgency to a fever pitch, much like 2003's "We've Had Enough." Elsewhere, the Trio take aim at topical issues, tackling anti-Trump despair on the frustrated "I Can't Believe" and lamenting the high-profile failure of the 2017 Fyre Festival on "Goodbye Fire Island." Over two decades into their career, Alkaline Trio sound like they're simply having a good time making serviceable adult-oriented punk rock, adding a few gems to an already stacked catalog.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung