Too much punk rock is predictable. Blink-182 and the Offspring often make music that's fun and hook-filled, but the formula has worn thin, with nothing left to challenge the senses or even the status quo. In 2001, pop-punk is as tame as Britney Spears.
The Alkaline Trio shares the same youthful roar of chronic discontent, but they're not rock 'n' roll clowns, nor are they afraid to tap into the darker corners of punk, as they demonstrated Sunday at the El Rey Theatre. If there was a pop-punk sameness to part of the repertoire, at its best the Chicago trio found some sly, intersecting turns in melody and meaning during songs from the new "From Here to Infirmary" album.
Other bands on Sunday's bill-- including No Motiv and the acoustic-flavored Dashboard Confessional--also showed promise, but nothing approached Alkaline Trio's subtle sophistication.
"Private Eye" exploded with the muscle of early Clash, and guitarist-vocalist Matt Skiba often sang with the reckless intensity of a young Paul Westerberg. The music was rousing, anthemic and ruggedly tuneful as the Alkaline Trio roared beneath a banner with the band's black-and-white insignia: a heart encircling a skull. The band closed its 50-minute set with "San Francisco," which slowed things down enough for sentiments that were tangibly sadder, suggesting a depth of feeling and musical ideas that could propel a stagnant genre forward. *
The Alkaline Trio plays at 8 tonight at the House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. $12.50. (714) 778-2583.