After fighting with Spotify for 3 days on and off, I was finally able to get my hands on the latest album from …Trail of Dead and I have to say, I was pretty stoked. This is one of my favourite bands, and not just for their name (which is amazing); about two years ago I went to go see these guys in The Cockpit in Leeds with a good buddy of mine (HI MATT!) without having heard any of their songs and I was blown away. After the gig I immediately listened to everything I could get my hands on which, considering they’ve been going for 18 years, is quite alot. So if you like “The Lost Songs” (here’s my review of it) and you want to get into the band a bit more, or if you just want to troll my page and tell me how I know nothing about music (HI MATT!), then here is my beginners’ guide to …And You Will Know Us by The Trail Of Dead.
LISTEN TO THIS FIRST – Source Tags and Codes
So I thought I’d start by suggesting an album to listen to before you delve into 7 albums worth of music these guys have made. That album is Source Tags and Codes.
I know every other Trail of Dead fan out there is going to sigh audibly at this for my lack of originality, but let’s be honest, this album is the dogs bollocks. There’s a very good reason it’s widely recognized as their greatest work and that’s because it is. Source Tags is a fantastic album from top to bottom, and is the ideal introduction to this band as it show every aspect of their music. The opening sets a terrific atmosphere, full of bleeps, samples, a haunting piano melody and cries of “Trail of Dead” (that’s a common feature across earlier albums), then explodes into a wall of guitars, with Conrad screaming at full throttle, full of pain and honesty. The album flows beautifully from track to track, full of enthralling quick-loud moments that have you headbanging like a dick before you even realize what’s going on. This isn’t just a collection of songs thrown together, though there are a number of standout tracks, this album takes you through the perils of modern life; loneliness, passion, alienation, amorality and confusion are all laid bare with considerable skill and surprising amount of danceability (if you dance like I do at least). Combine that with some stirring, apocalyptic lyrics and you’re onto a winner.
On a slightly more hipster douchebag-y note (there won’t be many, I promise), the structure of the album is superlative; the pacing is fantastic, giving you time to breathe for a second before launching into another audio assault that storms by you, leaving you wondering who pissed these guys off THIS much. Thematically, it is fairly ambitious and executes with unassuming expertise, leading from one emotion to another without you even realising. Want proof? Take 15 minutes to listen to Another Morning Stoner, Baudelaire, Homage and How Near How Far consecutively without singing you lungs out with alternating anger and despair and having a little boogie in between. Another striking feature of the album is the diversity of sound; this is not your standard 2 guitars, bass and drums record. There are pianos, strings (of some description) and a whole host of electronic accroutements that give real depth throughout.
Enough of the shameless fanboy adulation, just listen to the fucking album. Here are 3 tracks I recommend you listen to immediately:
It Was There That I Saw Your Face
Days of Being Wild
Honourble mentions: Another Morning Stoner, Source Tags and Codes
Liked Lost Songs? Check out The Century of Self
As previously mentioned, Lost Songs shows a much punkier side to this band than can be found on many of there albums. In terms of a straight like-for-like comparison, I would liken the bands newest offering to the 2009 album The Century of Self.
The Century of Self was actually the first Trail Of Dead album I listened to fully and I would rate it as one the best albums the band have released. Much like Lost Songs it has a very healthy bpm throughout but also has a smattering of slower tracks that complement the album as a whole. Whilst CoS has a bit more in the way of piano parts, it is still largely a straight up guitar and drums album with different sounds coming in to add depth to the mellower parts, not that there are many.
As ever with these guys, there is a great overall feel to this record as each track stands alone but works best as part of the whole and CoS is much greater than simply the sum of its parts. You are welcomed to the show with an epic prelude, which gives way to a squeal of feedback then boom! ripping guitars and a bouncyasfuck rhythm which gets you looking around for someone to mosh with as Far Pavilions comes into full swing. After a solid 15 minutes of the best airdrumming workout this side of thrash metal comes a fantastically melodic break from Fields of Coal and from there on out you’re kept guessing by a seamless section of quiet, thoughtful tracks that bite the second you get lulled in by Conrad’s voice. It’s a bit like being at sea; you think your being gently rocked by the serene waves, then get smashed by a tidal wave of sound.
I could prattle on a little more as to why this album is worth listening to, but since you’re probably already listening to it, here are my 3 favourite tracks:
Fields of Coal
Honourable mentions: Pictures of an Only Child, Insatiable Two
My Favourite: Madonna
The albums I’ve recommended so far have been shown what Trail of Dead do at both ends of the spectrum. I really like this band precisely because every album is different but similar at the same; the actual music in each record can be worlds apart from the last but always feels like Trail of Dead. Personally I’d pick Madonna as my favourite album as it blends both styles brilliantly. Plus the opening “Trail of Dead” is weirdly catchy, to the point that I have walked down the street quietly chanting “trail of dead” to myself whilst worried pedestrians cross the road to avoid me.
This is an album that has a lot of edge to it, with stark, honest lyrics that catch you a little off-guard. As with many of the bands albums it also has a certain funkiness that gets you bobbing away in no time, like my personal favourite Totally Natural. The music is driven by a barrage of tribal toms and some brilliantly discordant guitars at the start, then unfolds into some beautiful, sweeping soundscapes, with haunting piano pieces thrown in for good measure.
Madonna is my favourite album for the reasons mentioned above, but also because of the depth of the tracks on it. It has a hell of a lot of play on my iTunes and I’m not even close to finished listening to it. Though the songs appear to be quite straightfoward, each has a number of great little touches and there are a number of recurring drum and guitar parts which give the album a sense of identity which is sorely lacking in the majority of music outside of very proggy prog. This is most notable in Aged Dolls, a soaring 7 minutes which is filled with echoes of previous tracks and displays more sorrow than a My Chemical Romance song could dream of. Don’t get me wrong, this is a million miles from an emo song, mainly because it is able to express genuine despair through candid lyrics and technically excellent music without whining.
Probably the greatest strength of this record, though, is it’s diversity. Songs like Totally Natural and A Perfect Teenhood rip along with a sense of arrogance that’s infectious, whilst slower tracks like Clair de Lune always get me swaying melancholically within seconds. There are also a few short interludes which tie the whole thing together, making Madonna an intensely enjoyable listening experience.
Top 3 tracks:
Clair de Lune
Mark David Chapman
Honourable mentions: Mistakes and Regrets, Aged Dolls