…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes

I guess I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to “Austin music.” It’s not even the fault of the many bands and musicians who inhabit the Austin scene, but is more due to the seeming overhyping of any and every bit of music that comes out of our fair sister city. I’m embittered after years of watching incredible Houston bands wallow in obscurity and then die off while any goober with a guitar and a penchant for singing songs about Texas can get a record deal and see their music played in truck commercials on TV. Even in the indie world, Houston is the redheaded stepchild of the state — bands pass us by on the tour circuit year after year (or they would, but for the hard work of the Hands Up folks and people like them) in favor of Austin, Dallas, and even San Antonio (and hey, if we’re out of the way here, S.A.’s even further out of the loop).

All that said, even with my anti-Austin prejudices in full force I can’t deny that there are a lot of deserving bands in the city to our north and west; sometimes I just need a reminder. Enter …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, a quartet of inconceivably smart Austin guys who embody everything I love about indie-rock, past, present, and future: they’re loud, they’re bright as hell (take a look at the “News” section of their site, and you’ll see what I mean), they’re not afraid to get weird, they namecheck figures in literature and philosophy unapologetically, they don’t take themselves too seriously (take the story that their band’s name comes from recently-deciphered Mayan inscriptions, for example), and they genuinely, truly don’t seem to give a shit what anybody else thinks of what they do. Hell, listening to this I even forget that these uber-indie heroes aren’t on Matador or Merge or Dischord but are somehow signed to Interscope…

Right from the opening blast of “It Was There That I Saw You,” Trail of Dead grab the listener and pummel them, just to show how serious they are; sure, it’s a love song (I think), but it’s also a relentless, driving, beautiful rock barnburner the likes of Hüsker Dü’s best moments. The band segues smoothly into “Another Morning Stoner,” slowing things down somewhat and adding some atmospherics (Trail of Dead are, by the way, one of the few bands I’ve heard who use a sampler and don’t end up sounding electronic or Korn-like). There’s a major Sonic Youth influence through the whole album, an echo of their less-outrageously experimental moments, alongside what sounds to me like a love of the late Archers of Loaf — “How Near How Far,” a drifting, chiming gem of a song, sounds particularly like that band circa All the Nation’s Airports, and the more uptempo “Baudelaire” bears some resemblance, as well.

There are hints of other influences, like Lou Reed (“Heart in the Hand of the Matter”), Fugazi (“Homage”), Sebadoh (“Relative Ways”), and even U2 (the dark, threatening “Monsoon”), but they all combine to make a beautiful, impenetrable whole that’s difficult to accurately pin down. Perhaps the archetype of the Trail of Dead sound is best evidenced by “Days of Being Wild” — it’s a howling, intense, loud-soft rock non-anthem honest and gorgeous enough to make even the most jaded hipster bob their head (and which closes with a haiku spoken matter-of-factly over a squall of guitars). This is indie-rock that’s unafraid of the “rock” part of the equation but knows all the same that there can be beauty in the sound of a guitar destroying a speaker.

(Interscope Records -- 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA. 90404; http://www.interscope.com/; ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead -- http://www.trailofdead.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, October 1st, 2003. Filed under Reviews.

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