And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

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And You Will Know Us , 6.5/10
Madonna, 5/10
Source Tags & Codes , 6/10
Worlds Apart (2005), 5.5/10
So Divided (2006), 5/10
The Century Of Self (2009), 5.5/10
Tao of the Dead (2011), 6/10
Lost Songs (2012), 5/10

(Translated from my old Italian text by/ Tradotto da Nicholas Green)

Jason Reece and Conrad Keely, mainstays of Austin-based group And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (Trance Syndicate, 1997) both grew up in Hawaii and later on lived in Olympia, Washington. The band members constantly swap instruments, but, given how they play them, this doesn't really matter. They are also constantly switching between different musical styles; case in point, the record begins with Richter Scale Madness, a rock and roll number performed with the fury of thrash metal, immediately followed by Novena Without Faith, a long psychedelic track that moves from hypnotic whispering to a thunderous crescendo. The record continues with these sorts of mood swings, making it scattered and confusing. Each of the first two songs could be opening tracks on a remarkable album, but, as the record goes on, both of these albums-to-be fail to materialize.

Jason Reece e Conrad Keely, l'asse portante degli And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (Trance Syndicate, 1997) di Austin, sono entrambi cresciuti alle Hawaii e poi vissuti a Olympia, nel Washington. I componenti del gruppo si scambiano di continuo gli strumenti, ma, visto come li suonano, non e` molto importante. Cambiano di continuo anche lo stile musicale. Il disco inizia infatti con Richter Scale Madness all'insegna di un rock and roll eseguito con la foga del thrash, ma prosegue subito dopo con Novena Without Faith, un lungo brano psichedelico che passa dal bisbiglio ipnotico a un crescendo fragoroso, e continua in questo altalenare d'umori. Il disco e` pertanto dispersivo e confuso. Ciascuno dei primi due brani potrebbe essere l'inizio di un disco di tutto riguardo, ma nessuno dei due dischi si materializza nel proseguio.
The lengthy Aged Dolls on Madonna (Merge, 1999) epitomizes the band's limits: a badly concocted mix of acid-rock and punk-pop. The album is saved by a touch of Sonic Youth's noise-pop (Mark David Chapman) and a few bursts of hardcore energy (Blight Takes All, A Perfect Tenhood). La lunga Aged Dolls su Madonna (Merge, 1999) epitomizza i limiti del complesso: una miscela poco convinta di acid-rock e punk-pop. L'album viene salvato da un noise-pop alla Sonic Youth (Mark David Chapman) e da qualche botto di energia hardcore (Mistakes and Regrets, Blight Takes All, A Perfect Tenhood).
There is not much that is worth saving in the band's commercial sell-out, Source Tags & Codes (Interscope, 2002). A nod or two to the visceral post-hardcore of Fugazi (Days Of Being Wild, Baudelaire, Homage), a diligent impersonation of Pearl Jam's grunge (It Was There That I Saw You), a couple of sentimental emo-core dirges (Heart In The Hand Of The Matter and Source Tags & Codes, the most artful orchestration here), some catchy/gritty Sonic Youth-ian ballads (Monsoon, Relative Ways), and a general sense of "dejavu" are hard to digest, despite the numerous production feats.

The EP The Secret Of Elanas Tomb (Interscope, 2003) contains Intelligence, that winks at the new wave and German avant-rock of the 1970s.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Alessandro Cislaghi)

Source Tags & Codes (Interscope, 2002) è ciò uno dei pochi successi commerciali da annoverare tra tutte le produzioni del gruppo. Album che accenna al viscerale post-hardcore di Fugazi (Days Of Being Wild, Baudelaire, Homage), che imita diligentemente lo stile grunge dei Pearl Jam (It Was There That I Saw You), che contiene un paio di nenie sentimentali (Heart In The Hand Of The Matter e Source Tags & Codes, quest'ultima l'orchestrazione più azzeccata), alcune ballate orecchiabili di tipo Sonic Youth-ian (Monsoon, Relative Ways) ed un senso generale di "dejavu" difficile da digerire malgrado numerose sono state le imprese di valorizzare l'intero lavoro.

Worlds Apart (Interscope, 2005), And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's sell-out album, is basically the next step in the evolution of the genre of visceral melody coined by Nirvana and perfected by the Foo Fighters. Except that here it weds cute Beatles-style arrangements that mostly sink it. Creative constructions abound, often coupled with faux sociopolitical awareness (Worlds Apart with loudly sloppy drumming and jangling guitar, A Classic Arts Showcase, with a romantic orchestral interlude, Summer of '91), but ultimately this is poppy fluff for the post-punks who never heard Bacharach (The Rest Will Follow, The Lost City of Refuge) and bombast for the post-Vangelis generation (the seven-minute Will You Smile Again, with a glorious two-minute instrumental introduction). In retrospect, Source Tags & Codes feels like a revolutionary album compared with the conservative stand of this one.

So Divided (Interscope, 2006) boasts a majectic orchestral sound and crisp solemn melodies (and at least one anthemic rocker, Stand in Silence), while abandoning the violent edges of previous albums. Basically, the emphasis shifts from the "effects" to the songwriting itself. The problem, of course, is that they are not such great songwriters.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da David Bonnano)

Worlds Apart (Interscope, 2005), è l’album della svendita del gruppo , in pratica il passo successivo nell’evoluzione di quel genere di melodia viscerale coniato dai Nirvana e perfezionato dai  Foo Fighters. Solo che qui il suono viene sposato a  quei tipici arrangiamenti alla Beatles nei quali affonda quasi del tutto. Tolte le costruzioni creative, spesso accoppiate con una falsa consapevolezza sociopolitica  (Worlds Apart con una batteria approssimativa a tutto volume e le chitarre squillanti, A Classic Arts Showcase, con un romantico interludio orchestrale, Summer of '91) questa non è altro che paccottiglia poppeggiante per post-punks che non hanno mai ascoltato Bacharach (The Rest Will Follow, The Lost City of Refuge) e ampollosità per la generazione post –Vangelis (i 7 minuti di Will You Smile Again, con una gloriosa introduzione strumentale di 2 minuti). In retrospettiva, il disco precedente Source Tags & Codes  è un album rivoluzionario se paragonato alla piega conservatrice di quest’ultimo.

So Divided (Interscope, 2006) sfodera un maestoso suono orchestrale e chiare solenni melodie ( e almeno un inno rock Stand in Silence) abbandonando le violente spigolosità dei dischi precedenti. In pratica l’enfasi si sposta dagli “effetti” alla scrittura delle canzoni in sé. Il problema ovviamente  è che non siamo davanti a dei grandi autori.

The Century Of Self (Richter Scale/Justice, 2009), featuring new drummer Aaron Ford, marked a return to a simpler style, but also to predictability. The prog-rock excesses of the previous two albums still echoed through Bells of Creation and Isis Unveiled, impeccable constructs whose only drawback is that they seem meaningless and pointless. The hysterical (the instrumental overture Giants Causeway) and the bombastic (Far Pavillions) modes of their art returned to haunt them from much weaker positions. In the end, only the power-ballad Luna Park (which is unfortunately followed by a series of inferior clones) managed to fuse these elements in a charming and unique manner.

Tao of the Dead (Richter Scale, 2011) is one eclectic ride, but unfortunately little of the stylistic effort is worth that ride. Pure Radio Cosplay is mildly interesting in the punk-pop vein. The 16-minute Strange News embodies both the ambition and the limits of the album as a whole, starting out with wall-of-sound pomp, then delving into a languid Pink Floyd-ian elegy, then lifting off on a Neu-ian "motorik" propulsion and taking a swirling Indian detour (almost an instrumental remix of the Rolling Stones' Paint It Black) before returning to a booming melodic song that leads to the loud grandiose ending.

Lost Songs (2012) marks a return to concision and coherence, although too many songs follow the lead of the emphatic-for-the-sake-of-being-emphatic Open Doors and only Up to Infinity achieves punk-anthemic intensity.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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