By the time pop punk caught up to the Alkaline Trio (right), the band had already outgrown it, incorporating death-obsessed lyrics and metallic riffs into their evolving sound. While the Alkies' melodic punk-n-roll fits perfectly on emo standard-bearer Vagrant Records, a goth image and lack of whining set the group apart. The Trio's creative core -- guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano -- refined its unique sound with 2001's From Here to Infirmary and 2003's Good Mourning. On this year's Crimson, Alkaline combines contagious melodies, mellifluous harmonies and jerky rhythms -- as well as signature lyrics about the West Memphis Three and Manson Family member Sadie Mae Glutz -- to prove it can hold its own among both the new punks and the neo-wavers. At heart, Skiba, Andriano and millionth drummer Derek Grant are still pop-punkers, but they manage to be poppier, punkier and fresher than most of their dead-horse-flogging brethren. -- Eryc Eyl
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