It was 2002 and as dark a time as any. The world was still recovering from the shock of 9/11. Threats of terrorism and retaliation rounded up the daily news. One good thing happened though: a little band from Austin with a big sound released their landmark album that would later have Pitchfork Media calling it “one of indie rock’s truly epic albums”.
JUICE remembers the day we laid our hands on a copy. It was through a friend who just got back from abroad. He raved about this band with the longest name and anarchic concert sets. Source Tags & Codes by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead combined art with music in a fury of guitar buzz and explosive drumming. It was progressive, dreamy and punk rock within the span of 50+ minutes and was the most beautiful thing we heard that year.
7 years, 2 overthrown regimes and 2 albums later, Trail of Dead is releasing their latest record The Century of Self on their own label Richter Scale Records in conjunction with Justice Records. And by the sound of things heard from Festival Thyme (the album teaser EP), TOD is back on form again. Singer/guitarist and co-founder Conrad Keely was quoted saying: “On the last two albums, we were really meticulous recording to click-tracks and doing overdubs…This time, we threw all that out. We learned the songs and all tracked (them) live.”
Listening to ‘Bells of Creation’, we immediately tripped out big time. It was undeniably TOD; huge and epic, dark and clashing. Poetry in motion of a guitarist executing a windmill strum ala Pete Townsend. Elsewhere, TOD’s mastery of dynamics fires up on ‘Pictures of an Only Child’ which begins as a blur whimper before blasting into a powerful chorus. Much like Arcade Fire, TOD has an appreciation of Baroque music. But unlike the Canadians, TOD prefers to mix their classical influences with hardcore punk elements as evident on ‘Far Pavilions’ with shouted counterpoint vocals. The album also has quieter moments like ‘Luna Park’ and ‘Insatiable’ which are primarily acoustic guitar and piano songs. The Century of Self which was produced by Chris Coady (TV On The Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) features backing vocals from members of Yeasayer and Dragons Of Zynth.
As a longtime resident of Austin, Keely (who also designed the cover) moved to New York a few years back and was quickly inspired by local bands such as Yeasayer and Dirty Projectors. And with the dark days of 2009 in front of us, we as well hope to find some light in this album.
Take up arms and listen to And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead at www.trailofdead.com or www.myspace.com/trailofdead. The Century of Self will be available in stores from 17 Feb 2009 onwards.