Where some bands present themselves as four separate individuals, post-punk gatecrashers ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (commonly referred to, for brevity's sake, as Trail of Dead) opera
Where some bands present themselves as four separate individuals, post-punk gatecrashers ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (commonly referred to, for brevity's sake, as Trail of Dead) operate as a smartly dressed youth gang that tackles adversity with loud guitars, panache, and matching haircuts.
On its third album and Interscope debut, "Source Tags & Codes," Trail of Dead further demonstrates its proficiency as crushing songsmiths and flashy lads, all the while promulgating its desire to smash past the mainstream quagmire and kick everyone square in the pants. Radiating with devilish and feminine good looks, snarly attitudes, and a glass-shattering oeuvre, this little united front could be just the visceral shot in the arm today's rock world desperately needs.
Singer Conrad Keely mentions that, when not recording, the majority of his time is spent keeping busy with all things Trail of Dead. Since completing "Source Tags & Codes" with producer Michael McCarthy, the band has been consistently occupied with multiple endeavors; not to mention the fact that it has been on the road since the set's Feb. 26 release.
"We haven't had a break," Keely says. "After we finished recording, we did two short tours of the U.S. and one through Brazil. Our plate is really full with other projects right now as well. We're planning on putting out a [fanzine] that will be given out separately with the record. We're also developing videos for three songs, and we're planning a type of video experience where you can watch [the clips] individually or as one continuous piece."
Embedded in Trail of Dead's attitude is a weary fascination with and self-conscious acceptance of religious doctrine and belief. Keely and guitarist/drummer Jason Reece commonly conjure images of idol worship, pop culture vacuousness, and the dehumanizing effects of technology in their impassioned wails. On "Source Tags & Codes," the song "Homage" finds Reece delivering the darkly messianic lines "Brutal kids of this promised future/I call out to all those young and blackhearted/Do you believe in what I have seen?" with a frightening howl.
But Keely asserts that not every track on the set stems from a need to be confrontational or antagonistic: "When we started as a band, the early songs came from an intense anger. You know, I would have a specific anger at one person, and that would inspire a song. But as the band progressed, I suddenly found out I wasn't as angry anymore. I was feeling good about touring and playing -- I was doing what I wanted."
Covering territory explored on previous releases with a newfound focus, "Source Tags & Codes" finds Trail of Dead hemming in its sound with a simple yet inspiring musical vocabulary. On its second album, "Madonna" (Merge, 1999), the band favored the contrasting use of eclectic flourish and minimalist leanings; this stunning juxtaposition exposed the listener to newfound intricacies with each listen.
"Source Tags & Codes" is a largely stripped-down affair with a big sound and high production value. The song structure is based around the use of loud and quiet dynamics, producing visual and dramatic compositions while Keely and Reece scream (and sometimes sing) over the music with alarming conviction.
Commonly regarded for live performances that crescendo with instrument-smashing spectacles, Keely asserts, with just the slightest bit of pretense, that this climax brings the band closer to its craft by blurring the lines between human and instrument. "It allows us to really see inside the instrument, really stare into the ass of the instrument, as one might stare down the ass of death; see their cogs and machinations, its meshwork, its craquelure, its grain -- the blueprint from which it sprang."
Excerpted from the May 25, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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